By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s House of Representatives is set to decide whether it will examine allegations that one of its members no longer lives in the district he represents and has been trying to redraw legislative district lines to encompass his new home.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed in state district court in Cheyenne on Friday asked the court to force Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, to prove he lives within House District 43, the district he was elected to represent.
House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, told other representatives Monday he will entertain motions during Tuesday’s floor work on the allegations against Zwonitzer, who has been a representative since 2005.
The action is the result of a request by the central committee for the Wyoming Republican Party, which in January adopted a resolution asking the secretary of state’s office to investigate whether Zwonitzer lives in the district he represents, House District 43, or has moved to House District 10, where he bought a home with his spouse.
The complaint was forwarded to the Legislature and its administrative arm, the Legislative Service Office. The LSO, in a memo to representatives, said while Wyoming’s Constitution requires a person to live in a district to be elected to represent it, it is silent on the issue of whether the person must continue living within that district to continue serving as its representative. While state law requires a person to live within the district he or she represents, the Wyoming Supreme Court has found the law is an improper addition to the qualifications for service spelled out in the Constitution, the LSO said.
Zwonitzer, in a response to the allegations sent to Barlow and in an interview with Cowboy State Daily, said while he has purchased a home outside of House District 43, he maintains a residence inside the district to continue his representation and to allow his youngest child to finish junior high school where he began.
“I have always believed and continue to fully believe after discussing with multiple attorneys and legislators that I am well within the law to maintain multiple properties and divide my time as I see fit in order to manage the responsibilities and duties of my daily life,” he said in his letter to Barlow.
The allegations were brought to the central committee in January by Joey Correnti IV, chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party. During the committee’s meeting, Zwonitzer, chair of the House Corporations Committee, was also accused of trying to draw new legislative district boundaries that would expand House District 43 to include his new home.
The Corporations Committee has been involved in developing the state’s new redistricting plan, a process of redrawing House and Senate district boundaries based on the most recent census results so that each district contains as nearly an even number of voters as possible.
Zwonitzer told Cowboy State Daily he has done his best to keep his personal feelings separate from his work on redistricting.
Barlow sent the latest version of the redistricting plan to the House Education Committee for review rather than the Corporations Committee.
“As there is an obvious nexus between (the redistricting bill) and resolving the issue previously discussed, I have made the decision to refer the redistricting bill to the Education Committee for consideration Monday upon adjournment,” he wrote in his memo to representatives.
Barlow said the issues to be examined by representatives include whether Zwonitzer is qualified to continue serving in the House based on his residence, his role in creating redistricting plans, and whether he acted illegally as a legislator, if he is not qualified to serve.
The issue of Zwonitzer’s residency is also central to the lawsuit filed Friday by Laramie County residents Eric Crosby, Sherry Crosby, Lynne Robin Goodspeed and Kathryn Kij.
Sherry Crosby is a precinct commmitteewoman in House District 43 and in the lawsuit, she said her husband Eric, while helping her prepare for the Laramie County Precinct Caucus, noted Zwonitzer had registered to vote in an area he did not believe Zwonitzer lived in.
“He noted that (Zwonitzer’s) address as officially recorded for the November 2021 bond election could not correspond to his actual residential address per recent media interviews by (Zwonitzer),” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit accused Zwonitzer of committing voter fraud.
The lawsuit asked the court to force Zwonitzer to provide proof that he lived within House District 43 at the time of the bond election and “an order for the disclosure of Zwonitzer’s present domicile as well as his ownership of or interest in all real property within Laramie County during the calendar year of 2021 to the present.”