Appeals Court orders Fremont County to change voting system

Feb 23, 2012

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by a Wyoming court, ordering Fremont County elections officials to implement a single-member elections system.

The decision is an attempt to remedy discrimination against American Indian voters.

In the past, Fremont county used an at-large system, wherevoters chose candidates for the entire county, rather than for smaller districts. That meant minority candidates didn’t have much of a chance. In contrast, a single-member system allows voters to choose candidates from their specific area.

"Since the American Indian vote is concentrated in a particular geographic area, the American Indian voters are more likely to be able to choose a candidate from their specific area," said Jennifer Horvath, a staff attorney with the Wyoming Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, there were no American Indian county commissioners. Despite the fact that American Indians make up more than 20 percent of the population in Fremont county."

However, Horvath says the suit by Fremont County could continue despite the ruling.

"Fremont county did raise the constitutionality of the voting rights act and section 2 in particular and the trial court upheld the voting rights act and my guess is that they’ll continue to challenge the voting rights act and the constitutionality of the voting rights act up to the supreme court."

The ACLU originally brought the suit in 2005.