A voter receives her ballot and instructions from poll worker Lori Iverson in Jackson on Nov. 3, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Senate leadership resuscitated a bill to limit crossover voting by restricting how and when Wyoming residents may affiliate with a political party on Tuesday. 

House Bill 103 – Political party affiliation declaration and changes moved through its original chamber with minimal opposition, but came to a halt last week as the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee voted 3-1 with one excused against the bill. 

A failure to pass committee is typically the end of the line for a bill.

The legislation got a second chance at becoming a law, however, when Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) brought two successful motions to the floor — one to recall HB 103 from the Corporations Committee, a second to reassign it to another committee for consideration. The resurrection was possible due to a rule that’s rarely invoked, much less successfully. Senate Rule 5-5 allows lawmakers to overrule a committee’s rejection of a bill with a simple majority vote and thereby revive it. 

The chamber voted 19-12 to retrieve the bill and 16-14 with one excused to assign it to the Senate Revenue Committee, where, observers believe, its passage is all but guaranteed. 

Debate on the matter focused not on the merit of the bill, but rather the appropriateness of thwarting the will of one of the chamber’s own committees. 

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne) told lawmakers.

Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne) during the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

Crossover voting

Currently, Wyoming voters have the right to change their party affiliation at any time including on Election Day. That’s long been a thorn in the side of the Wyoming Republican Party, who objects to residents from other parties registering as Republicans to vote for their preferred primary election candidates — also known as crossover voting.

The issue became a priority for the GOP after Gov. Mark Gordon secured the Republican nomination in the 2018 gubernatorial race with less than 50% of the vote. Some conservatives credited his victory to Democratic support. Uproar then ramped up in 2022 due to fears that liberals and independents would sway the high-profile race between Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat. Party-favorite Hageman trounced the incumbent, nonetheless. 

Despite passion and many past attempts, lawmakers have never successfully prohibited crossover voting. This session, lawmakers brought four bills to add restrictions. All four died. Now one has been revived.  

If enacted, HB 103 would stop residents from changing party affiliation or canceling their voter registration anytime after the nomination period opens for candidates, which falls 96 days ahead of the primary election, per state statute. Thereby forcing voters to choose a party before the candidates are announced.

Secretary of State Chuck Gray — who campaigned for his new role as the state’s top election official on unverified claims that there were “tremendous problems” with the security of Wyoming’s elections — made ending crossover voting a top legislative priority. Gray gave committee testimony in favor of anti-crossover voting bills such as HB 103, which he preferred to the other, less-restrictive bills. 

Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) at the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session in Cheyenne. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)


In committee, Sen. Brian Boner (R- Douglas) was the one member to vote in favor of the bill, while Sens. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette), Cale Case (R-Lander) and Charles Scott (R-Casper) opposed it. Sen. Bill Landen (R-Casper) was excused. 

On the floor, Nethercott opposed reviving the failed legislation on account of the committee’s rejection. 

“What is the point of committees? And what is the point of the process if all we’re going to do is up-end it?” Nethercott said. She also raised concerns with the motion opening a can of worms by setting a new precedent for when the body is dissatisfied with a bill’s committee outcome. 

“Imagine the chaos and the time and the disruption,” she said. Nethercott also opposed sending an election-related bill to a committee that does not deal with election issues, “likely for a predetermined outcome.” 

The rule should be used sparingly, Hicks said, but it was available to the body for a reason. It was the degree of support from the body — including in years past — for the measure that made circumstances just right in Hicks’ view. 

“I think the body basically vindicated that it was a proper reading [of the rule],” Hicks told WyoFile. 

To his recollection, Case said the body had not overruled a committee’s decision to kill a bill during his more than two decades in the Senate. He also thought the rule had been used improperly. Having already failed, the bill was no longer with the Corporations Committee, according to Case, and as such couldn’t be recalled from it. 

Case expected the bill to get the approval of its newly assigned committee, but anticipated “a big floor fight” once it returns to the chamber. 

“It’s gonna be a hot one!,” he said.

Maggie Mullen reports on state government and politics. Before joining WyoFile in 2022, she spent five years at Wyoming Public Radio.

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  1. I agree with Sen. Nethercott. Unfortunately, some of the newly elected members in the Wyoming Senate and House are determined to strong arm the wishes of the majority of Wyomingites to their own advantage. And, unfortunately, we have a new Secretary of State who is willing to do the same. Having worked on Election Boards for over 40 years (Alaska and Wyoming), I am certain that all 50 states abide by the rules of their state for elections. This is just another “fear tactic” by the (mostly) far right Republicans.

  2. It is important to make a choice after full review of all candidates and what they believe is important to the voters. As a voter in Wyoming I want to make a fully informed decision even if it comes down to changing my party to vote for the best person for the job in your he final days of their campaign.

  3. Chuck Gray wants Wyoming elections to be more like New York State. Now there’s a state with no corruption problems.

  4. Another win for the “thought police”. Apparently, partisan purity is more important than independent thought or unsanctioned problem solving. These legislators believe that the electorate, and their constituents can’t be trusted. Wyoming has a lot of serious problems, cross-over voting is not one of them.

  5. The secret society of the fascist freedom caucus continues to attack the freedoms. We do have at the state and national level. Next time you vote consider the negative impact of these people. I know you will forget it by the time the next election occurs because these secret scoundrels Won’t bring up their secret freedom caucus.

  6. The voters are responsible for all their representatives do. Vote better and you will get better. I suggest that all Democrats and Independents register as Republicans and vote the crazies out.

    1. Easy peasy….yup! Register Republican early. I wish we had everyone’s name who is running for office on the primary ballot and those with the largest number of votes get on the general ballot.

  7. Let’s face the truth. There are very few grown ups in the legislative room. Let’s also face the fact that every one of these people were elected—by us. So while we sit scratching our heads as the collective 8-year-old maturity level of the man-boys and mean girls scrabble over proverbial toys on their proverbial playground, screaming “Mine!” “Let go!” “You’re not my friend anymore!” “Isn’t s/he cute?” “Who are you going to prom with?” Perhaps we need to stop voting for the people with the loudest screams and vote for those who actually have a brain. Then maybe we wouldn’t have brain-eating Zombies in charge.

  8. One should be able to vote for candidates one wants. Regardless of party. Stop all this free election meddling. I guess one simple way around it. Register INDEPENDENT. If everyone done that. Think of the results. May be very positive move

    1. Now, if you’re an independent, unaffiliated, at the primary, you don’t get to vote for Republicans or Democrats, just the nonpartisan races. That’s a reason so many independents change their affiliation at the primary. Is that enough to sway the outcome of a race? The state GOP leadership committee thinks so. Others say no.
      Open primaries, depending on the legislative language, could allow all voters to select from all candidates.

    2. I’ve been an election judge in three states for more election cycles than I can remember. When I returned to Wyoming on a permanent basis in 2016 one of the first thing I did was attempt to become an election judge but supposedly there were no open positions. But in 2018 it was suddenly apparent there were several openings and I became an election judge. So except for 2008 and 2016 I had been an election judge in Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming. In 2008 I was a candidate for Texas House 61 against an incumbent named Phil King. I lost but not after receiving over 14,000 votes. He was soon head of a young Freedom caucus in Texas. Cross over voting has always been appart of voting in both Texas and Wyoming. It gives a chance to tell a political party that their hand picked candidate in not acceptable Since the cancerous spread of Trumpism has taken deep root in the Wyoming Republican what choice do real republicans have but to change over and vote for someone else that does not trip over the heals of his master Donald Trump. It nice to know even in Wyoming there are real Republicans that are not swooned by the words of. The pathological liar who we know know has built a empire of marked cards using deception, lies, fraud and criminal activities to support his lifestyle and sustain his worthless facades. Let the people vote for who they want even if the for 24 hours. This will help keep to many of the delusional crazies from making ridiculous laws and at the same time ignoring real problems in Wyoming