Wyoming has a problem with “election integrity,” but it’s not voter fraud, international hackers or corruptible voting machines.

Opinion

It also has nothing to do with ballot drop boxes, voter IDs or, as someone testified at a recent legislative meeting, a suspicious number of cars with Colorado license plates parked near polling places during the primary election.

No, the biggest threats to free and fair elections here are unsubstantiated and/or debunked claims that we don’t already have free and fair elections. 

If people don’t trust that their votes are properly counted, why show up at all? If election judges’ diligent work is questioned by their fellow citizens, why sign up to spend 12 hours at the polls making sure every vote is legally cast and tabulated?

This isn’t a problem just in Wyoming. Baseless rhetorical attacks on America’s election system are now endemic, no matter how many times votes in the 2020 presidential election were recounted and found to be accurate. 

Contested presidential elections and the associated political turmoil are nothing new. Republicans accused Democrats of cheating after John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960, and the U.S. Supreme Court gave George W. Bush a controversial victory over Al Gore four decades later. But there was always a peaceful transition of power. 

Until 2020, when former President Donald Trump claimed massive election fraud that didn’t occur. He’s never conceded to President Joe Biden and never will. Trump is likely to run again in 2024.

Trump sewed the seeds of mistrust in 2016, when he claimed the election would be rigged against him. His supporters were convinced: A poll one week before the election showed 79% of Republicans believed Democrats might steal it.

Of course the GOP dropped its complaints when Trump won the Electoral College. But Trump played the same fraud card in 2020, claiming dirty deeds by Dems before any votes were even cast. Nothing has been peaceful about politics since.

I never heard any doubts about election integrity here until it became a major talking point of the Wyoming Republican Party. For the life of me, I still can’t understand why residents in a state where Trump won 70% of the vote keep questioning the election’s legitimacy. It’s patently absurd.

Nothing has caused the chaos to subside. Not even then-Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, a Republican, declaring that the 2022 primary election was the fairest and most secure in state history seemed to help.

Wyoming Elections Director Kai Schon said election officials deftly handled a power outage at one poll site and a flood at another without any threats to election integrity. Only one machine out of 302 had a jam, and at the end of the day all were fully functional and tabulated every ballot.

“These issues and how they were remedied are direct proof of the integrity of our county clerks in the election,” Schon said.

But dozens of people who attended the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee’s Oct. 14 meeting in Cheyenne don’t believe it. They testified against a draft bill to codify the way Wyoming has certified electronic election equipment for the past 16 years. Despite the opposition, it passed by a 12-1 bipartisan vote. 

You’d think that people concerned about election integrity would be in favor of such a bill, but no. They don’t care if the machines are certified because they don’t want Wyoming to use them at all. 

Some said electronic machines can be hacked. Even more insisted the state go back to paper ballots and pens. 

“You’ve got a paper record if a recount needs to be done, and there’s no way it can be tainted or doctored,” said Don Odom of Cheyenne, who also wants all ballots counted by hand.

Why stop there? Didn’t the Flintstones use a slate and chisel to make their election choices?

For the record, Wyoming already uses paper ballots. The Secretary of State’s website describes what happens: “Every voter, whether through filling out a paper ballot by hand or using the touchscreen (ExpressVOTE) has a paper ballot that is cast indicating their ballot choices.” 

There is always a paper trail that can be used to confirm the accuracy of every single vote. The clerks have a secure chain of custody for all ballots, whether cast absentee, early in-person or at the polls on election day. 

But why let demonstrable facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory?

Before every election, each of the state’s 23 county clerks conduct tests of voting machines that are open to the public. After the election, clerks audit a portion of the voting machines to validate they are still reading ballots with 100% accuracy.

Despite chortles from some in the audience after Schon said the machines are not connected to the internet, they are not connected to the internet. 

In 2019, Wyoming signed a contract with Election System & Software to provide all the state’s election equipment. The Secretary of State’s website debunks the myth that ES&S voting machines have a built-in wireless modem that transfers election data that can be intercepted and manipulated by anyone, including foreign adversaries.

There are no modems, and the SOS site says Wyoming’s voting machines “do not even contain the software or hardware necessary for a modem to function.”

No one, including the county clerks who supervise them, says Wyoming elections are error-free. Mistakes are made, but these dedicated public servants do their best to prevent them and fix them. They do not deserve to be maligned by anyone trying to score cheap political points to please Trump.

That includes Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper), a 2020 presidential election denier who is unopposed for secretary of state after defeating Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne) in the GOP primary. 

The choice between candidates to replace Buchanan, who decided to take a gubernatorial appointment as a district court judge instead of running for re-election, was stark. 

Nethercott agreed with Buchanan that Wyoming elections are secure. Gray toured the state offering free showings of “2000 Mules,” a film that pushed the phony claim Democrats stuffed ballot drop boxes and stole the election. He said the election was “rigged” and Biden’s presidency is illegitimate.

I get it: many Wyoming Republicans are convinced our elections aren’t fair, or they wouldn’t have chosen Gray. I doubt if there is any set of facts one can offer to change most of their minds.

Gray campaigned on removing ballot drop boxes, which fortunately won’t be up to him. The Legislature is responsible for making election laws, not the secretary of state, who enforces them.

It’s frustrating to see elections cause so much turmoil, both for Republicans who have lost confidence in the system and others — including myself — who worry about damage to the Elections Division from new leadership that wants to fix a system that isn’t broken.

The fallout is already serious. Schon and Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler both resigned after Gray’s primary win. Fortunately, they will both stay through the Nov. 8 election, but when Gray takes over the state will lose their combined 50 years of election experience.

Another key slot to fill will be the communications and policy director. Monique Meese, who held the job, resigned two days after the primary. “[Gray has] called into question the integrity of this office, and now he’s going to run it. And yuck,” she told the Cowboy State Daily.

Yuck, indeed. But don’t forget to vote, with confidence that your ballot will be counted. I’m anxious to put mine in the Laramie County drop box, while I still can.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. In Wyoming . . . Who initiated Lawfare to prevent the Governor from making appointments? Lawfare against successful Voter ID legislation? Who attempted legislation to remove powers from a duly elected Secretary of State? Who wants to abolish Primary Elections? Who endorses unethical “crossover voting” that interferes with Republican primaries? Who is trying to force “ranked choice” voting favorable to Democrats? In the real world, Democrats and their infiltrators in the Republican Party are the “biggest threat to free and fair elections here.”

  2. Dumbocrats are sending out fake ballots in Pennsylvania and Colorado. Arizona and Michigan too? That’s a given. Always cheating. Always.

    1. What proof do you have of this? Why is it that any race won by the Repulicants are fair but any race lost by them is rigged? We live in one of the reddest states in America so there must be zero voter fraud here.

  3. Hi then, I offen wonder why, no one will agree, Voyer Faude happened in Goshen County, Huntley Prec’, I reported it too the County Clerk the next day, when a good freind asked if Stinmitz was on the Paper Balote and nt the mech, She was on the Mech’ was not in that Prec, The County Clerk made all kinds of excuses for the mistake, Hell she sure new it, That was Voter Faude, some day some one is going to look it up,

  4. Oh NO! Election denier Hillary Clinton is on the news today saying there will be fraud and the 2022 midterms will be stolen!!!! How dare she!!! She must be a gullible democrat per Chuck Davis… just saying. Cracks me up…

  5. Perhaps the state’s election deniers might consider getting their so-called news from something other than the premier anti-American, misnamed network, Fox News, more like Fox Propaganda, you know, the channel that’s always on in every Wyoming hotel/motel lobby and breakfast room. (The FEC should revoke Fox News’s permit because they are definitely NOT a news channel.) Fox News, along with a tremendous boost from imposter president 45, created fake news, and millions of uninformed, lazy citizens still believe 45 and his large posse of national crooks – who have trickled down to all 50 states, that means you, too, Wyoming – have nothing but the public’s own best interests front and center. Wake-up, chumps, how’s about picking up a well-respected national newspaper, free at your public library, or tuning in to National Public Radio, or catch news on public television, national news from a legitimate source, for a change? You might actually learn something akin to “real” news, if you are able to discern it, and be able to form something of an educated political opinion rather than being force-fed far-right propaganda from a network owned by a crooked billionaire, who doesn’t give a hoot about the United States, Wyoming, or you. But if Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch wants to know something about our state, I can inform him that Wyoming is known as a sheep state where an unhealthy number of its people often behave like a herd of spooked sheep, blindly following wherever a leader, however bad or inept, takes them, even off a cliff, I bet Murdoch would be pleased to hear it.

  6. Dear Mr Drake,

    You may need to write your opinion at say more of a 4th grade level so that the followers of the Orange one can understand it. Then their comments might make sense.

    Many politicians over the years have claimed that elections were stolen. It was a figure of speech and even if they meant it, they did not instigate an insurrection and threaten the core of democracy as did the Orange blob.

    Fox News🤣🤣🤣has been pushing the
    Claims of stolen election, in the past, by the democrats. No proof, none what’s so ever.

    With 70% of Wyoming Voters voting for the orange one how on earth do they figure that in Wyoming the ballots were rigged or changed.

    My sympathy goes out to all the hard working election people that work to keep are elections honest. They are being called cheats and are being physical and mentally abused. Many across the country have quit

  7. 2000 mules…. myriad RINOs…..donkeys rare as unicorns…..and we go and head and heel the White Elephant from Wyoming’s menagerie to send to Congress……I don’t know that we necessarily “need” to possess a nefarious collective wherewithal to properly rig a fee and fair election……

  8. Great article. Wyoming has always had safe and fair elections. I believe it will continue to be that way. Our counties do a great job. Audits have shown we have a safe and valid system in Wyoming. Let’s work to keep it that way.

  9. Sir: An “election” is a selection by a vote; thus there will be winners and losers, some accepting the outcome, others not doing so. Are only Republicans, especially Wyoming Republicans, in the latter group? I take no sides on this issue, but sticking to the 21st Century, and paraphrasing from the August 2022 issue of Imprimis — in 2000, 15 House Democrats objected to counting Florida’s electoral votes; several Democrat members of Congress called the 2000 election “fraudulent”; Texas Representative Bernice Johnson called the election “stolen”. In 2004 Democrats forced a recess while electoral votes were counted to debate perceived “irregularities” in Ohio; 31 House Democrats voted to reject Ohio’s electoral votes and were applauded for doing so by Ill. Senator Durbin. In 2016, several Democrats objected to the certification of Trump electors based on “overwhelming evidence of Russian interference” in the election. The 2020 election was rampant with reports of irregularities, some more accurate than others. Consider Georgia — the midnight ballot dump that pushed Biden ahead of Trump had all the appearances of manipulative ballot stuffing followed by days of uncertainly about who won. Given the backdrop in which the 2020 election took place — with new and expansive vote-by-mail procedures — it is not surprising that alarms went off and many citizens questioned the final tally. Is it a surprise that some questions remain to this day and that a shadow continues to cloud future elections? What will again instill trust in elections, the engine of our republic?

    1. T. Kiesel
      thanks for the enlightening reply, the D’s always get amnesia when it comes to them disagreeing with the outcome of the elections they believe were “stolen”. They don’t agree the 2020 election was stolen, which has since been proven in many, many instances, several irregularities, such as people going to jail for tampering with the ballots, finding ballots thrown out, they seem to ignore those facts, which led to a senile, unqualified, imbecile to inhabit the WH, who has in two short years, destroyed the US economy, left over 80 billion dollars worth of military equipment , and personnel in a foreign country that is now being used against us, caused the highest gasoline prices in history, supply shortages, etc. Great job dummocraps

    2. Thank you for some sanity. The hate and outright lies on the left are really getting old. The election denial cult of Democrats is very real. All emotions. No truth.
      The left was terrified by Goldwater. Now they are literally inviting a nuclear exchange with Russia.
      The left was terrified by Reagan. So they decided to work on voting machines in earnest in the 1980s.
      We all remember Bush vs Gore.
      Nazi vs Commie. Bad choice either way. I was a Democrat then. And an election denier. Thank God the Republicans weren’t all hateful dishonest criminals, just the ones who liked Bush and Cheney. One hopes the left will stop this madness. If they had really wanted Gore then he would have won and 911 would not have happened, in my opinion. But the 1% wanted big changes. No unintended consequences. Ever.

  10. A friend suggested that election deniers are “low-information voters.” Low information voters “believe” sound bites rather than engaging in reasoned arguments about the evidence. Low information voters depend on “cues,” such as media headlines, party affiliation, or the candidates’ personal appearance in making their voting decisions. Low information voters vote despite lacking a clear understanding of the issues or knowledge of the candidates as people. They are easily swayed to a political position by emotion.

    For low information voters who are also election deniers the strongest emotion is fear – fear of change, of losing privilege that personal and community beliefs are true for all. When a sound bite spoken over and over and over becomes “T”ruth and replaces empirical evidence as a basis for voting, fear of change reigns. Low information voters don’t realize that election denial is the product of a politicized media machine repeating simple statements over and over and over.

    Examples… “The election was rigged.” “Stop the Steal.” Voters that rally around these slogans don’t want to consider that they might be based in deliberate manipulation of emotion – again, mostly fear. The purpose of election denial is establishment of an authoritarian political system based in the whims and loyalty to one man. This man promises to make things like they used to be. Amazingly, lots of people believe this.

  11. Kerry,
    If a large percentage of Wyoming’s citizens don’t have faith in our electoral system, rather than calling them crazy, doesn’t it make more sense to shore up the process to help alleviate their concerns? Further, if they elect a politician who shares those concerns, isn’t that how democracy is supposed to work?

    1. No, it does not make sense to devise solutions to problems that don’t exist. What makes sense is for the election deniers to stop claiming there was fraud without evidence. If people want to vote for such election deniers that’s fine, but when they start screwing with election laws and procedures that have been shown to be secure they need to be called out and stopped.

  12. Why no mention of all the Democrats for decades saying elections have been stolen? Hillary said Trump stole it in 2016 and called him illegitimate. Abrahams in Georgia never conceded. Typical left sided article. No surprise. They are all on video but the fake news doesn’t want to expose this inconvenient truth. Pathetic.

      1. Courageous would be accepting facts when it is not the outcome you had wanted.

        Courageous is not repeating lies and expecting others to believe them as you do.

    1. Because the article isn’t about gullible democrats that still think the election was stolen without any credible evidence….

      The article is about the gullible chrump fanatics who believe every word that comes out of the orange guys mouth. Chrump himself, through interviews and other witness accounts, has admitted that the electing wasn’t stolen and he legitimately lost. But, the gullible chrumpers don’t want to hear it. They think it’s all “fake”. The chrumpers are continuing to believe nonsense while the weasel who started it is laughing at you all.

    2. Which Democrat started an insurrection to stop the electoral count??? Oh that is right, none. Which Democrat never conceded after losing their Presidential bid?? Oh that is right, none of them. When you say “They are all on video but the fake news doesn’t want to expose this inconvenient truth” are you referring to the insurrectionists and Faux entertainment?

  13. It’s called trust.
    Who can you trust?
    We have lost the ability to trust our “Media” news sources and seeing prima facie evidence presented and called fake by some who don’t want it interfering with their agendas, we sit back and go OK. We can’t trust anything mediaphiles say so what can we do?
    Vote. There’s more of us who want to get it right than you might believe.

  14. I don’t think the right winged conspiracy backers have enough fingers and toes to count the ballots buy hand.