Despite some unexpected hurdles, including a polling-place power outage and flooding, the 2022 primary election was one of the most successful in Wyoming’s history, according to Secretary of State Ed Buchanan.
It saw the most ballots ever cast in a Wyoming primary election as well as the highest turnout since 1994. And in a year where many candidates ran on election integrity concerns, a new post-election audit indicated zero issues across all 23 counties.
“Wyoming’s elections are fair. They’re secure. And we have many examples of that to tell about today,” Buchanan said Wednesday in Cheyenne as the Wyoming State Canvassing Board met to certify the election results.
As is required by state statute, the board — consisting of Gov. Mark Gordon, State Auditor Kristi Racines, State Treasurer Curt Meier and Buchanan as chair — met no later than the second Wednesday following the election.
After reviewing the state abstracts — detailed summaries of each county’s results — the board certified the primary election results unanimously.
There were three unexpected situations on Election Day, Kai Schon, director of the secretary of state’s election division, told the board.
In Lincoln County, a polling place at the Thayne Community Center lost power due to a car crashing into a nearby powerline. Wyoming’s ballot tabulators have battery backups, Schon said, which immediately kicked in, preventing any disruption in voting. Meantime, the emergency manager got a generator to the site, which was on hand until the power was restored shortly before the polls closed.
“These things do happen,” Schon said. “We’re prepared for those things.”
In Hot Springs County, flooding from a leaky bathroom pipe in the early morning hours forced the clerk’s office to relocate a polling place from the Thermopolis Museum to the county annex building, Schon said. Staff posted signs indicating the change and things were in order by the time the polls opened, he said.
At the Archer Complex in Laramie County, a tabulator jammed and was unable to receive ballots for a short period of time, Schon said. The clerk instructed staff to use the auxiliary bin, Schon said, which he said is designed for these kinds of situations. It doesn’t disrupt voting and provides a separate compartment to hold ballots until the jam can be cleared.
“Bipartisan election judges can retrieve those ballots when there’s a downtime at the vote center. And they can run those through the tabulator, which is exactly what they did,” Schon said. The counts on the tabulator were also reconciled with the counts on the poll books, according to Schon.
Out of the 302 tabulators used across the state, Schon said, the one in Laramie County was the only one to jam.
“So that means 99.7% of our machines had zero issues,” Schon said. “And 100% of them, by the end of the day, 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 elections which they run.”
Leading up to the 2022 election, Buchanan spent a considerable amount of time giving presentations across the state to dispel common election-related fallacies.
Schon thanked Buchanan “on behalf of our staff, on behalf of literally Wyomingites for standing up for the truth and dispelling those lies and protecting the integrity of our elections.”
Buchanan did not seek re-election. Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) beat out Sen. Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne) and Mark Armstrong in the primary race for the office. Without a major-party challenger in the general election, Gray is likely to be Wyoming’s next secretary of state. The lawmaker ran a campaign heavy on conspiracy theories related to election fraud, saying there were “tremendous problems” with the 2020 election. He’s also promised to make several changes to Wyoming’s elections processes, such as banning ballot drop boxes and making ballot harvesting a felony. The secretary of state lacks the authority to do either, however. Those powers rest with the Legislature.
Gray did not respond to WyoFile’s request for comment.
Republicans across the state have been scrambling to find a candidate to run as an independent in the general election against Gray, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
Audits, recounts and write-ins
The secretary of state’s office piloted a new post-election audit in all 23 counties for the primary. (Audits with test ballots were already part of the process.)
Working with the University of Wyoming’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the office used a mathematical tool to determine a sample size significant enough to deliver a 99% confidence level in the election result. In the case of the 2022 primary election, Schon said that amounted to about 3,000 ballots that were selected at random. Those ballots were adjudicated with 100% accuracy, Schon said.
A recount was required in House District 2, where the difference in votes was less than 1% between Rep. JD Williams (R-Lusk) and Allen Earl Slagle. The recount found one fewer vote for Slagle, who ultimately prevailed.
The board also certified write-in candidates. It determined that Jen Solis, a Democrat, received enough votes to run for House District 41 in Cheyenne, and that Nate Martin, a Republican, received enough votes to run for House District 45 in Laramie — a seat currently held by his spouse, Democrat Karlee Provenza. It’s now up to the two write-in candidates to accept the nominations.