Voters cast their ballots at the Natrona County Fairgrounds during the 2021 Primary Election. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

The Park County Commissioners will not approve a proposal by Park County Republican Men’s Club to hand-count ballots in the 2022 elections, but the proposal remains in play. 

The commission followed the counsel of Park County and Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric, who advised against the proposal, citing several apparent conflicts with Wyoming election statutes as well as federal law. The commission will now consider whether to approve a request to hand-count ballots from the previous election instead, pending an opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General.

Wyoming uses paper ballots and tallies them with electronic counting machines. The Park County Republican Men’s Club proposed counting those ballots by hand, characterizing it as a way to reassure voters of the accuracy of the machines. 

Since then, Park County has become a focal point in a statewide conversation about election integrity. While maintaining that Wyoming’s elections are fair, efficient and free from tampering, election officials agree that voter confidence in the process needs a boost. Hand-counting ballots, however, is not a legal solution, according to the county attorney. 

Legal argument

“Voting procedures in the State of Wyoming are set by the Wyoming Legislature, not local officials,” Skoric wrote in his opinion letter

In April, the commissioners requested Skoric provide a legal opinion before deciding on the proposal. 

Skoric cites three state statutes in his letter, including one that requires counties to use ballots that are designed for electronic counting.

If all 23 counties had their own voting and tabulation procedures — such as one hand-counting, another not — “uniformity would be lost and voter skepticism would surely ensue,” Skoric wrote. 

Hand counts are subject to human error, which is “the very thing the Legislature intended to eliminate” by enacting such a statute, according to Skoric. He also pointed to voter privacy, which is guaranteed by the Wyoming Constitution. 

“Handing ballots over to any individual or group outside of existing election laws would violate this constitutional provision,” he wrote. 

Sharing ballots would also violate federal law that requires ballots to be kept and preserved by the Park County Clerk for 22 months following an election. 

Counting ballots by hand would also present a timing issue, according to Skoric. Per Wyoming statute, election results must be submitted to the secretary of state no later than 10:30 p.m. on election night. Voting machines allow county clerks to meet this deadline, Skoric wrote, “whereas hand counting could take days.”

Violating any of the stated laws would put officials at risk of felony conviction and removal from office, Skoric wrote. He also encouraged those with concerns to volunteer as election judges. 

“County attorneys are charged with giving legal opinions, which are not always popular opinions,” Skoric wrote in the final remarks of his letter. 

Original request 

Wyoming state law requires public testing of voting machines before use on Election Day. County-level post-election audits are also required. Additionally, the voting machines used in 2020 were more secure and sophisticated than any other voting machines used in the history of Wyoming’s elections, according to Secretary of State Ed Buchanan.

The Park County Republican Men’s Club, however, remains dubious. 

That’s why it first approached the commissioners in April with the proposal to hand-count ballots. Members said the idea was to test the accuracy of the machines. 

As Skoric made his recommendation against the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting, the group changed its game plan. 

“Our alternative is to go back and do an entire hand count on the 2020 [Primary Election|,” Cody resident Boone Tidwell said, adding that it would give them “the satisfaction” they are seeking. 

The commission did not reject the new proposal. Instead, the body decided to seek an opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill on the matter before making the call. 

The commission hopes to get several pieces of information from Hill, not simply whether such a proposal is legal. It’s not clear, for example, to the commission if one would need to be a certified judge to participate in the hand-counting. 

If such a thing is required, Commissioner Lloyd Thiel said it could cost the county more than $4,000. 

Maggie Mullen

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. As a life long Republican, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a good chance Trump stole the 2016 election from Hillary and there’s no doubt he tried to steal 2020 from Biden. One thing these degenerate Park Co. Thrillbillies need to know is that Donald J. Trump is a user and he’s USING YOU. In real life, the Chump would have nothing to do with a bunch of backwater carpetbaggers in a flyover State. Yet, you trumpanzees, there ya’ are, willing to do the mans bidding. Do ya’all want to hand count ballots in an election? Of course you do and of course you’d pull some monkey business (see what I did?) to steal an election for the Chumps or Harriet “Sell out Wyoming Water” Hagemans, or some other want-to-be of the day. The only way for the GOP to salvage it’s existence in Wyoming is to have all of you goof ball “men’s club” types not only leave the party, but leave the State. In closing, NO, we don’t want you clowns anywhere near the ballots

  2. “The Park County Republican Men’s Club, however, remains dubious.”

    That is because they choose to believe insane conspiracy theories over taking the time to actively learn about how ballots are actually cast, and the safeguards around their security. The lack of intellectual rigor amongst these individuals is staggering.

  3. The GOP in Park County is dead. It’s been replaced (overran) by these new whack jobs, especially the “Park Co. Republican Men’s Club” outfit. A very high majority of these poseurs are carpetbaggers from elsewhere that have flocked to the Northwest corner of the State seeking instant attention and fame. Most of us are just waiting for the upcoming implosion of the nuevo Wyoming GOP that will scatted the carpetbaggers back to where they came from and then the rest of us will scrounge through the debris and hopefully rebuild the Republican Party.

  4. Hand counting ballots is insane. I’ve did this far back in a election for a local prepositions in a political party. Three of use took part after we signed a oath to guarantee our count was ethical, accurate and correct. We used a guide that help us only count this particular ballot’s mark needed to be counted by us. As we started we found if you did not put the guide on perfectly the count was inaccurate, we even discovered as little as ah quarter inch off tit could change a result. After some 10 tries we still were off a couple of votes every time. After the thirteenth count it finally matched. It’s tedious, it takes a good eye but the big thing was it was way to easy to commit human error. It clear that the Republican Mens Ciub of Park County is way out of touch with reality and does not mind wasting your county employee’s time and your tax dollars on things best left with machines that have been tested and verified numerous time prior to a election to make sure the too are accurate and working! This clear demonstrates that some supposed Republicans are more bent on dividing us the solving present problems and issues by whipping a problem that does not exsist and turning it into a issue of no merit!

    1. The chrumpers have beaten the election fraud dead horse to glue by now. Someone needs to step up and tell the gullible that they have been lied to in regards to a “stolen” election.