Donald Trump really doesn’t need a Wyoming secretary of state on his side if he runs for president again.
It’s not as if having an ally in charge of elections would give him a bigger advantage than he already has in the Equality State, where 70% of ballots were cast for Trump in 2020.
Nope, there’s no reason for Trump’s supporters here to waste their breath reciting the former president’s lie that Joe Biden and the Democrats stole the election in at least five swing states.
And let’s be clear: There is no credible evidence that massive voter fraud changed the results in any state Biden won. Tens of thousands of dead people did not vote, millions of ballots were not stashed in trucks or buildings, no hacked foreign-made machines magically flipped Trump votes to Biden.
All of those conspiracy theories and many others were thrown out by state and federal courts, which rejected more than 60 lawsuits filed by Trump’s legal team. The Washington Post found that 38 judges appointed by Republicans dealt fatal blows to such suits.
When you win the state by more than 120,000 votes, as Trump did in 2020, the Wyoming Republican Party should find it nearly impossible to convince a single person the state can’t be trusted to count votes fairly. Yet not only do many people swear it’s true, it’s an issue that two of the four GOP secretary of state candidates are banking on to win.
This duo needs Trump far more than he needs them.
Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) and Centennial geologist Mark Armstrong are competing to let Trump voters know they have his back. Armstrong has embraced the ex-president’s hatred of absentee voting and wants to heavily restrict it in Wyoming; Gray is offering free showings of a widely debunked Trump propaganda film at campaign events.
The other two GOP candidates are veteran state Sens. Dan Dockstader of Afton and Tara Nethercott of Cheyenne. No Democrats filed for the office, so they won’t be “stealing” it. Minority party nominees and independent candidates have until August to file for the general election.
If any state can be confident that it has no election integrity problems, it’s Wyoming. Republican Secretary of State Ed Buchanan said voting machines used in 2020 were more secure and sophisticated than any in Wyoming’s history. And that’s not simply a matter of faith; state law requires county-level post-election audits.
I’ll believe we have a real election integrity problem in Wyoming when a successful GOP candidate renounces victory here because they’re not confident in the results.
Buchanan announced he would run for re-election, but changed his mind in May when a judicial opening became available in Torrington, his hometown. Until he opted out of the secretary of state race, it appeared he might go unchallenged.
Nethercott, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is the candidate who most aligns with the way Buchanan runs his office. She served on a 2017 task force to replace outdated voting equipment. While she has supported some efforts aimed at improving public confidence that all votes will be counted, she doesn’t doubt the security of the system in place.
Senate President Dockstader hedged a bit, calling Wyoming’s 2020 elections “for the most part secure,” though there’s “always room for improvement.”
But when WyoFile asked Gray if the 2020 elections in Wyoming were fair, he responded, “The answer to that is … there’s tremendous problems.”
According to Gray, ballot drop boxes are the culprit. They also happen to be at the core of the, ahem, “documentary” he’s been pushing, Dinesh D’Souza’s “2000 Mules,” which Gray calls “extremely relevant for the preservation of our republic and for the secretary of state race.”
The secure boxes enabled many Wyoming voters to be certain their absentee ballots were delivered after government buildings had closed for the day, or without having to enter a county clerk’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowing people to drop off others’ ballots is legal in Wyoming, but a failed Senate bill last year tried to restrict the practice with no evidence it’s ever been abused. Gray backed that measure.
Gray makes a popular process that increases voter access sound positively sinister. “‘2000 Mules’ clearly demonstrated how the woke, big tech left has stolen elections with ballot drop boxes,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
The film does nothing of the sort. The conservative “election integrity” group True the Vote said it used digital device location-tracking data to show that thousands of individuals (the eponymous “2,000 mules”) supposedly stuffed drop boxes with stacks of completed ballots in 2020.
Numerous fact-checkers — including Associated Press, PolitiFact, the Washington Post, even GOP secretaries of state — have found many of the film’s claims dubious at best, and others flat-out wrong.
His film is flawed, but D’Souza does know something about campaign fraud. He plead guilty to making illegal contributions to a U.S. Senate campaign in 2014 and was sentenced to five years’ probation. Trump — who gave “2000 Mules” two enthusiastic thumbs-up — pardoned D’Souza in 2018.
Meanwhile, Armstrong has leveled his most vehement criticism at absentee ballots, which 46% of Wyoming voters used in 2020. He has filed criminal complaints with the Secretary of State’s Office about absentee ballots used in Albany County.
“That any qualified [registered] voter can vote absentee opens the door to fraud,” Armstrong said, adding absentee voting should only be allowed for those with a “reasonable explanation,” such as military service.
Not surprisingly, the election changes Gray and Armstrong advocate mirror a Wyoming Republican Party resolution passed in February. It would ban any form of mail-in balloting, curb-side voting and ballot drop boxes, and restrict absentee voting.
The state party also wants to prohibit any type of electronic machinery from tabulating votes. Since such a policy would put Wyoming voting back to the Stone Age, make same day-results virtually impossible, and throw the door wide-open to human error and misbehavior, I call this one the GOP’s “Flintstones” plank.
Finally, let’s not forget the most histrionic response to a non-issue of election integrity, the Voter ID bill that Gray championed for years before finally seeing it become law in 2021. While residents have always needed to show valid ID to register to vote, Gray’s bill requires them to also produce such documents at the polls.
Last April, former State Rep. Charles Pelkey (D-Laramie) sued the state on behalf of an Albany County voter. The suit claims the additional ID requirement is a violation of the Wyoming Constitution, which enumerates suffrage as fundamental.
Gray said voter integrity is paramount and called Pelkey’s lawsuit “frivolous.”
For the past 40 years, the conservative Heritage Foundation has maintained a voter fraud database for all 50 states. In all that time, there have been only four convictions in Wyoming: an Evansville couple, a Casper woman, and a man who moved to the state from Alaska, where he had lost his voting rights.
All were Republicans. None affected the outcome of a single election. Thanks to Gray, we’ve stopped this huge crime wave in its tracks. Whether the candidate brings the same kind of law-and-order measure to protect us from drop boxes, of course, will be up to voters.
Remember to bring your ID.