Readers submit questions about how elections work in Wyoming, and we find answers. Got a question? Click here. We might incorporate your question into a future story or add it to the growing list of answers below.
What are the residency requirements for voting in Wyoming? — EC
The Wyoming voter registration form requires applicants to “solemnly swear (or affirm)” they are a “bona fide resident of the state of Wyoming,” but state law does not define a time period one must reside in Wyoming to qualify as a voter.
Wyoming Election Code defines residence as “the place where a person has a current habitation and to which, whenever he is absent, he has the intention of returning.”
The Wyoming voter registration form also requires applicants, under oath, to relinquish their voter registration in another county or state, preventing an individual from voting in more than one election.
When asked for clarifying information to help prospective voters determine if they indeed qualify as Wyoming residents, Monique Meese with the Secretary of State’s office said “it’s not the role of our office to offer statutory interpretations. We would love to encourage all qualified voters to participate in both the primary and general elections.”
Also, given pending litigation, “it would not be appropriate for us to offer a comment beyond the plain language of the statute itself,” Meese said, pointing to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s coverage of Rex Rammell’s threats to sue the secretary of state. The Republican candidate for governor accused fellow candidate Brent Bien of failing to meet residency requirements for the office.
A county clerk echoed Meese’s answer regarding statutory interpretation. “Please be advised that I am unable to interpret statute for citizens,” Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales said.
The matter is more cut and dried when it comes to who qualifies for in-state college tuition or a resident game and fish license.
University of Wyoming regulations require a student to prove residence in Wyoming for at least 12 consecutive months. Wyoming Game and Fish also requires a person applying for a resident license “shall be domiciled and shall physically reside in Wyoming for one full year.”
When it comes to voting, national advocates warn residency requirements create undue hardship for people without a permanent address. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “this group includes those without a home, those experiencing housing insecurity or unstable housing, those living in their cars, those living from couch to couch and those in a transient state.”
The ACLU of Wyoming is in favor of the state’s current approach to residency for voting. “While Wyoming doesn’t have the extreme voting laws that have disenfranchised voters around the country, our laws should ensure that it’s easy for eligible people to vote — not to make it harder by requiring specific time-bound residency requirements,” Libby Skarin, campaigns director for the ACLU of Wyoming, said.
“Voting is a fundamental right of our democracy. The decisions made in city halls, state legislatures, the United States Congress and every other level of government affect the lives of all Wyomingites,” she said. “But voting loses its impact when people don’t participate.”
Early voting is already underway for the Aug. 16 primary.
When can we expect to see more ballot drop boxes in more disparate places? It seems that limiting the drop-off locations to one place really doesn’t help voters of limited means. — JS
Ballot drop boxes are part of the absentee voting process. Wyoming Election code requires absentee ballots “be sealed in the inner ballot envelope and mailed or delivered to the clerk.” County clerks may receive ballots in a secure drop box outside the courthouse as a method of delivery, according to Monique Meese with the Secretary of State’s office. “But [clerks] could not put [the drop box] somewhere else across the county, it must be ‘at or near’ the courthouse,” Meese said.
“During COVID, the secretary of state did issue specific parameters requiring video surveillance of the boxes in use,” Meese added.
Nine counties used secure drop boxes in 2020: Big Horn, Sheridan, Park, Teton, Sweetwater, Johnson, Albany, Laramie and Fremont, according to Meese. A complete list of the counties that will utilize drop boxes for the 2022 election is not available yet.
The decision to expand permissible drop box locations is up to the Legislature, Meese said.
Can I vote with a felony on my record in Wyoming? — CL
For most of Wyoming’s history people with felony convictions were not allowed to vote. Close to 20 years ago that changed, allowing those with first-time nonviolent felonies to regain suffrage. In some cases restoration is automatic, and in others an application is required. And while there are systems in place to flag ineligible voters, the onus is on the individual to ensure eligibility. Read the full story here.
How do you know who your precinct representative is? And are they important? – JC
Precinct committee people hold positions in their county’s Republican or Democratic party and serve two-year terms. Registered Republicans and Democrats select them on the primary ballot, or they can be appointed if a vacancy exists after the election.
Every voting precinct in the state is entitled to at least one committeeman and one committeewoman for both parties. Some precincts may have additional representatives based on a formula outlined in state statute.
Sample primary ballots made available by county clerks include candidates running to be precinct committee members.
Some counties or local county parties have websites with lists of their current precinct committee people, but if you can’t find the information online, you will need to contact your local party or county clerk. However, there may not be an active local party in some parts of the state depending on the specific party and county in question, and these positions might be vacant.
Precinct committee people serve statutory and non-statutory roles, Ben Rowland, chair of the Laramie Democratic Party, told WyoFile via email.
“Per Wyo. Stat. Ann. 22-4-101, PCPs are the formal members of what’s called the ‘county central committee.’ The central committee is the governing body of the county political party,” Rowland said.
As members of the central committee, precinct committee people attend meetings and vote to elect county party officers and representatives in the state party. They also vote on issues concerning the county party like bylaws, resolutions and party platforms.
Another statutory responsibility of the central committee is to help fill vacancies that exist in the offices of local county and legislative positions. For instance, if a vacancy arises in an elected county office, the central committee of the county party that last held the office is asked to put forward three candidates to fill the position, from which the board of county commissioners picks one finalist.
Precinct committee people are often expected to contribute to the county political party beyond their statutory role as well. In both parties, precinct committee people may act as organizers in their precinct by interacting with their community, supporting party candidates, holding events, mobilizing voters, and hosting caucuses in the case of Republican precinct committee people. Committee people must reside in the precinct that they represent.
Here is a list with links to Republican county parties’ websites and social media.
Here is a list with links to Democratic county parties’ websites and social media.
What percentage of registered Democrats and Republicans voted in Wyoming primaries during the past decade? — GE
In the last decade an average of 63% of registered Republicans turned out to vote in primary elections compared with 46% of registered Democrats, according to WyoFile analysis of Wyoming Secretary of State data. Both registered Republicans and Democrats saw their highest turnout in 2020, at 69% and 60% respectively. The lowest turnout for registered Democrats was 35% in 2014. The lowest turnout for registered Republicans was 58% in 2012.
(It’s worth noting that instead of a government-run primary to nominate a presidential candidate, the Wyoming Democratic Party held caucuses while the Republicans picked their nominee by holding conventions in 2016 and 2020.)
According to statistics going back to 1978, the number of registered voters heading into the Aug. 16 primary is at an all time high. As of Aug. 1, there were 284,557 registered voters — 18,000 more than registered for past primaries. Democrats make up 14% of voters compared with 73% of Republicans heading into the Aug. 16 primary.
Voter registration statistics and voter turnout statistics are available from the Wyoming Secretary of State.
Have absentee voting procedures changed recently? Or can I expect my mail-in ballot to come and send it in as usual? — AM
Wyoming is a “no excuse” absentee voting state meaning that any qualified elector may vote by absentee ballot without providing a reason. Wyoming voters can get an absentee ballot as early as 45 days prior to the election by contacting their county clerk’s office. Information about how to vote absentee is available on the Secretary of State’s website or by contacting your county clerk directly.
One recent change is when absentee ballots can start to be processed. House Bill 52 – Timeline to prepare and process absentee ballots, passed during the 2022 legislative session, allowed county clerks to start counting absentee ballots the Thursday or Friday before Election Day. The change came in response to a spike in the number of Wyoming residents who vote absentee. Clerks who choose to process absentee ballots in advance of Election Day must notify the secretary of state and each political party, including information on in-person observation of the process, according to the bill’s summary.
I’m registered with a party but want to change to independent. Can an independent select one primary in which to vote? — KT
“If you want to vote for Republican or Democratic candidates in the primary, you must be a registered voter of that party,” according to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s website. But you can change your party affiliation at your polling place on Election Day in order to participate in the primary election of your choosing. If you choose to remain an independent, a member of another party or unaffiliated you will still receive a ballot when you show up at the polls on primary election day, but it will only contain non-partisan candidates for municipal government like city councilors.
If Liz Cheney loses the Republican primary, can she run as an independent in the general election? — WT
“W.S. 22-5-302 explicitly prohibits candidates who were unsuccessful in the primary election from running as an independent in the general election for the same vacancy. They can still, however, run as a write-in candidate. This provision applies to any partisan candidate,” according to Monique Meese with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office.
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