I’m a RINO. Not nearly as ferocious as a rhino. RINOs are “Republicans in Name Only.” That means I am usually registered as a Republican in order to vote in primary elections in Campbell County, an overwhelmingly Republican county, where most city and county elections are decided at the primary. Many times, there are no Democratic candidates at all.
But I care who my sheriff is and who the county attorney will be, so I register as a Republican. Sometimes, just for the heck of it, I go down to the elections office and change my party affiliation, which is more or less Democrat. I’ve changed my party affiliation in order to serve on state boards and commissions. But, in order to vote in primary elections, I have to change my registration back to Republican, so I will have a choice in how my community is run.
We currently have the comfort of changing our affiliation 30 days prior to the primary, or at the polls if we have forgotten to do so by election day. But a Wyoming Senate bill (SF0013) introduced on January 17th would change all that.
Instead of doing the logical thing, which would make all local races nonpartisan, this bill requires people to have their party affiliation registration changed no later than 90 days prior to a primary. That means that in lovely May, when we’re thinking about pleasant activities we can do in the rare warm months in Wyoming, we also have to think of hiking down to the courthouse and making sure we’re registered in the right party.
The reason for making this change, as I understand it, is that the powerful Republican party in our state is afraid that the far-outnumbered Democrats would all get together and form a bloc, all voting for a Republican candidate with Democratic ideas.
The folks who introduced this bill, Rep. Amy Edmonds (R-Cheyenne) and Sen. Kit Jennings (R-Casper), might have (a very slim and flimsy) reason to feel that such a plan by Democrats is feasible. They live in counties with large populations and a relatively higher ratio of Democrats to Republicans, compared to, say, Campbell County.
But the two sponsors obviously have wildly exaggerated thoughts that Democrats, or any Wyoming group, can get so organized as to carry off such a plan. And probably in secret, no less! Not only are the few Democrats in the state a loosely tied together group, but the entire state’s population is extremely independent — and not just politically, although politics can be used for some good illustrations.
Wyoming frequently has a Republican House and Senate, serving along with a Democratic governor, like Dave Freudenthal or Ed Herschler. If the Republicans were not crossing over, as they fear the Democrats of doing, how in the heck would we have elected so many Democratic governors? How do we explain the elections of former U.S. Rep. Teno Roncalio and former U.S. Sen. Gale McGee, both Democrats, unless Wyoming Republicans crossed over in the general election to vote for them? This is beginning to sound like a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
I propose that city and county races, instead of being made more difficult for voters, be made accessible to all. And the way to do that is to make races at those levels nonpartisan. Why should we support a bill that makes it harder for someone to engage in “lowercase d” democracy, rather than to support making us more equal and able to support those good public citizens who step forward to serve us on every level: local, county, state and federal?
With the overwhelming majority of both Wyoming’s House and Senate being Republicans, it would be easy to pass this unnecessary burden on the people of the state who just want a say in who their public servants will be. But we count on all our representatives and senators to serve all of the state, so would this bill be wise? I don’t think so.
Kate Missett has lived in Wyoming since 1961. She has been a writer/editor since high school.