The Wyoming Republican Party’s insistence that the state pass new laws to prevent rampant electoral fraud is clearly absurd.
The conservative Heritage Foundation has tracked these fraud cases nationally since 1982. According to its website, three occurred in Wyoming in that 39-year period, resulting in the convictions of a man, a woman and a couple.
All were registered Republicans. None of his efforts threatened to alter the outcome of an election. And none of his crimes would have been avoided by House Bill 75 – Prevention of Electoral Fraud, an unnecessary voter identification measure sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper).
Forty Republicans in the Wyoming 60-member House and half the Senate are co-sponsoring the project. This means that the HB 75 needs just one more vote from the senator to pass. I’ve never seen a more polished note for the ticket than this one.
I must hand it over to Wyoming Republican Party officials and state legislators – when it comes to solving non-existent problems, no one does it better.
The state Republican Party, led by far-right officials, passed a resolution February 6 that would prohibit any form of voting by mail, voting on the curb side and boxes for collecting ballots. The party wants to severely limit the absent vote and ban any type of electronic voting machine.
I think we could give all 23 county registry offices slates, chisels and hammers for official counting – this method worked really well for the first Stone Age mayor race – but even low-tech equipment costs money. With our state’s budget crisis, Republican leaders must find a more conservative form from a fiscal point of view.
Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, a Republican, knows that his party’s calls for strengthening the integrity of the Wyoming elections are unnecessary.
“I think most of us would agree that, in Wyoming, we hold elections in the right way. I have always loved, always will, ”wrote Buchanan in a letter to the GOP.
Unlike Colorado and four other states, Wyoming does not send ballots to all registered voters. But Wyoming has an “no excuse” absentee voting law, so people don’t have to offer a reason why they want to vote absentee.
The state had a record number of voters in the 2020 general election – evidence of strong voter confidence. More than 278,000 people voted and almost half used absentee ballots.
Coupled with the fact that this was achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is nothing short of remarkable.
So, what is driving these glaring demands for “safer” elections in the state? Consider former President Donald Trump’s loud but belittled claim that Democrats stole the 2020 election from him. Despite losing the popular vote by more than 7 million and the Electoral College by 306-232, Trump insists he won by an overwhelming victory.
His claims of electoral fraud in the six states he narrowly lost were rejected by 60 federal and state courts, including the US Supreme Court. The US Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency called the November 3 election “the safest in American history”.
Even though the allegations of electoral fraud in states with presidential battlegrounds are without merit, at least I can see what is motivating Republicans to crack down on voting there. Sometimes they shamelessly don’t even hide their agenda
And what about the bills that really protect and expand voter rights in the 2020 elections proposed by the states? According to Trump and Co., they would be horrible. “They had things – voting levels that, if you agreed, you would never have an elected Republican in this country again,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends” last March.
Wyoming Republican Party leaders ran the ball after Trump’s defeat, although he won 70% of the state’s vote.
The Wyoming Congressional delegation is 100% Republican, the same goes for the five state-elected officials. Eighty-eight – 79 of the 90 state legislators – are Republicans.
This is as close to total cleansing as any state will ever get. But it is apparently not enough for party leaders.
After two failed attempts to sponsor voter identity projects, Gray is virtually guaranteed victory this year with the HB 75.
But voter identification laws have only one purpose: to prevent voters from impersonating other people. The HB 75 would not have prevented any of the electoral fraud cases in Wyoming during the past four decades.
In 2000, Rep. Carolyn Paseneaux, a Republican Casper, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for using a fake address at the polls after selling her home in 1997.
A year later, Gary and Leila Blake, of Casper, did not dispute a misdemeanor, the fraudulent use of absent notes. The Blakes voted absent because they wanted to go elk hunting on election day. To do this, they used the absentee notes that had been sent to their former address in Evansville.
In 2014, David Koch, news director for Cody radio and a convicted felon in Alaska, was found guilty of illegally voting in the 2010 and 2012 elections in Wyoming. He was sentenced to two to four years in prison. The voter registration would not prevent you from voting.
Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt studied extensively the impersonation of the voter between 2000-14. He found 31 credible charges in more than 1 billion votes cast.
What voter identification laws really do is suppress voter turnout. The US Government Accountability Office estimates these laws reduce electoral participation by 2-3 percentage points. It is enough scope to potentially make a difference in many elections.
Voter rampant fraud in Wyoming is a myth. In an online forum last Thursday, the Equality State Policy Center gathered a panel of experts in voting rights and elections, whose knowledge can help Wyoming lawmakers make better legislation than HB 75.
Linda Fritz, a Crook County clerk and president of the Wyoming County Employees’ Association, explained why she is not concerned with electoral fraud. There are so many safeguards in place – including secure voting machines and billing processes – that it would be almost impossible for someone with the nefarious intent to meddle in an election, she said.
Are there changes Wyoming can make to expand voter rights? Absolutely. Despite the record turnout in 2020, thousands of registered voters still decided not to vote.
Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, suggested during the panel that Wyoming adopt automatic voter registration and track registered voters if they change addresses through the U.S. Postal Service.
“In a healthy democracy, we are calling for as many voters as possible … to participate,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, of the Brennan Center for Justice. “We must really bring new people into the fold.
“Instead of appealing to our worst instincts,” he added, “we could be making people feel that their votes count and welcoming them into the conversation.”
It seems that the leaders of the Republican Party of Wyoming do not want to have a conversation. Instead, the limited government party wants to require residents to show a government-approved ID or return home without voting. Its officials do not want residents to be able to vote absent, even during the country’s worst health crisis in the past century, but instead, they would force them to go to the polls and risk falling ill or dying.
I think most people, including Republicans, still believe that when more people vote, it will be better for our democracy. But Republican state officials are more interested in restricting access to the polls to people who may pose a threat to the control of political power.
The legislature will approve HB 75, but Governor Mark Gordon does not need to sign it. Meanwhile, the Wyoming Republican Party’s call to change the absentee voter’s laws must be overturned before lawmakers turn the party’s hysterical speech into law.