Moose resident Marian Meyers admitted that she didn’t do all of her homework ahead of showing up to the polls Tuesday at the Teton County Recreation Center. 

Meyers, who had been in the books as a Democrat, changed her registration to Republican so she could vote for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who she admired for having the “guts to stand up for our country in the face of a lot of opposition.” She was less certain, however, about which other Republicans on her ballot had values and stances that best aligned with her own — and so she left some bubbles unfilled.

“I did not want to vote for somebody who I was not familiar with and educated about,” Meyers said. 

Meyers wasn’t alone — and it wasn’t just crossover voters who didn’t make it down the ballot.

There were more than 182,000 ballots cast across Wyoming during early and in-person voting, which is the highest raw count in a midterm primary election on record and the highest rate of turnout since 1994. Roughly 40% of Wyoming’s voting age population put a ballot in the mail or showed up to the polls. There was a 31% increase in Wyoming residents who voted compared to 2018, the last primary election halfway through a U.S. president’s term. 

“To some degree, this was a referendum of where people stood on Trump, as much as anything else,” former Gov. Dave Freudenthal told WyoFile. 

Largely, Wyoming voters motivated to come out sided with Trump in the highest-profile race: Cheney versus Harriet Hageman, the former president’s hand-picked proxy, who topped the incumbent by a 37% margin.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney waves goodbye to supporters at the Mead Ranch near Jackson on Aug. 16, 2022. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

More than 99.5% of the nearly 172,000 ballots cast in the Republican primary marked either Cheney, Hageman or another candidate. Not so for candidates in races farther down the ballot. It’s nothing new, but there were several races — statewide, legislative, county, municipal, and others —  in which a significant portion of voters didn’t select a candidate.

In the competitive statewide race for the superintendent of public instruction, there were more than 25,000 fewer votes cast — called undervotes — than there were total ballots submitted. That’s about 14% of all the voters who turned out, and in that race Megan Degenfelder topped incumbent appointed superintendent Brian Schroeder by a relatively slim margin, only 3,555 votes. 

Notably, the undervote rate for the superintendent of public instruction improved compared to the 2018 primary, when 21% of Republicans didn’t select a superintendent candidate.

There were 14,000 undervotes in the race for secretary of state, a position that oversees Wyoming’s elections. Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper), who campaigned on the premise that the 2020 election was rigged, won with 75,938 votes. Second-place finisher, Sen. Tara Nethercott, garnered 63,044 votes. Still, the undervote very likely played no role in the outcome — it would only have swung the race to Nethercott if more than 90% of the would-be voters filled her bubble.

But undervotes might have played a role in the outcomes of some Wyoming Legislature races. In Albany County’s House District 14, Julie McCallister lost by just 125 votes to Bryan Shuster in a race with 487 fewer votes placed than total ballots cast in the district. Albany County houses Laramie, a liberal-for-Wyoming city where voters were more apt to crossover. Based on who donated to the candidates — far-right mega-donors Dan and Carleen Brophy backed Shuster — a higher percentage of down-ballot voting might have swung the race to McCallister.

Shuster will face incumbent Rep. Trey Sherwood (D-Laramie) in November’s general election.

Cheyenne resident Jeff Oliver is an example of a Wyoming voter who weighed in on statewide races the primary, but didn’t vote all the way down the ballot. Usually a Democrat, his disapproval of Trump and the former president’s endorsed candidates motivated him to change party affiliation.

“With the age of Trump, democracy is in peril,” Oliver said. 

Oliver voted against three Trump picks: Hageman, Schroeder and Gray. He didn’t vote on state House or Senate races, and personally knew of five or six other people in his circle who did something similar.

“You know, in some of those races they’re either like a Republican that’s unopposed or they are like two or three Republicans, who pretty much are equally very hardcore conservative,” Oliver said. “So there’s not a viable one that I would see as much better than the other in terms of what they’re going to do for Wyoming.” 

The general election, where Wyoming voters can choose between Republicans and often long-shot independents, Democrats, and minor-party candidates is Nov. 8.

Mike Koshmrl

Mike Koshmrl reports from Jackson on state politics and Wyoming's natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures...

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  1. What exactly is Wyoming’s future in a changing world? Well let’s see. We can look forward to wind turbines across Wyoming’s landscapes that generate energy for other places. We can expect energy companies to drill gas wells everywhere, ruining the underground infrastructure in search of natural gas to be put into the global markets. You do know that Wyoming’s energy development is driven by much foreign interests, (Chinese, Russian, to name just two) with their agents here to manage those interests, right? Wyoming’s always been at the behest of any energy development, but the legislature cannot bring itself to raise the tax revenues in this sector. As a body, it gets scared when these energy interests threaten to leave the state. As a side note, If 75% of Wyoming’s population are political Republicans, then those must be the percentage of inconsiderate and rude motorists who feel entitled to speed everywhere on our highways and city streets. Those also must be the Republicans who voted for the nut-job-far- righters Hageman, Gray, Degenfelder for one reason only: The Big Lie. Although it’s NOT a lie that Trump lost, fair and square. It’s funny how no Republicans called for recounts. Could it be simply because they won? I see a lawsuit in Gray’s future when he tries to finagle his bs claims about election integrity into law, using his office to overstep its authority. Hageman? Why does she always look like a deer in headlights? Degenfelder? The schools are already turning out dumb kids. If she lets the parents become the “number one decision maker[s] in their child’s education” the kids will surely be just as dumb, or dumber, then the parents. We can also count on people like the jerk who owns the Elk Mountain Ranch, who couldn’t care less about anybody or anything in Wyoming, throwing his money around on a ridiculous pissing contest. And we can count on people moving here and leaving pretty quickly because of the rotten weather and the impenetrable cultural wall they meet when they get here. We can also count on some kids leaving the state because that is simply what kids do: they want to go somewhere and experience different things. Quit trying to make that some kind of the-sky-is-falling debate that it’s something somebody should do something about. Some come back, some just don’t. State government hires plenty of out-of-staters all the time, believing that those people bring better qualifications and experience. Try and change that kind of thinking. Do you really think that out of 435 U.S. representatives that Hageman will do a darn thing for Wyoming? Nope, not gonna happen. Liz is and continues to be a far right Republican and voted for everything Trump did, but she lost her seat for the simple reason that she didn’t believe the big lie and that Trump did indeed foment the Capitol invasion. Well, I’d say good luck Wyoming on your future which will quickly become the past. I think I remember somewhat of a better past, but then who really cares about history anymore.

  2. You interviewed two “crossover” voters. This leaves the reader with a certain impression. If you’d have asked an informed voter, you may have been able to present differing views instead of leading the reader to conclusions. I called candidates and sought as much information as possible. I printed out a sample ballot and made detailed notes. As for the Hageman/Cheney thing: For myself, and almost all of my friends, Cheney was a problem long before the Jan. 6 “committee.” She simply was not doing enough to get Wyoming out of the crosshairs of D. C. for its industries. Hageman brilliantly campaigned on this concept – that it was about far more than Cheney’s disdain for Trump. I met and talked extensively with Hageman and Cheney never came up in the discussion. We talked about Wyoming’s future in a changing world. Thus, these crossover voters were very shallow in their thinking. There’s nothing brave about letting the news convince you to change parties. What they did was purely emotional; whereas there are plenty of folks like myself to interview that will tell a much different story. We that voted for Hageman were voting FOR Wyoming allot more than we were voting AGAINST Cheney. In other words, we set aside emotion and made well informed, thought-out decisions. But it’s “news” and it ain’t what it used to be. There’s so much to this election that just won’t ever be told sadly because I guess we’re all supposed to be divided. That sells papers.

    1. It is nice that Hageman could only express what she thought she could do for Wyoming in a private conversation with you. Everything I ever saw her talking about was how she was endorsed by tRump and that her main goal was to beat Liz. You that voted for Hageman are going to be real disappointed when she is in the basement of the White House with no say in what happens in Wyoming meaning no representation. The majority of people that voted for Hageman only voted for her because tRump endorsed her and the same goes for Chucky Gray.

      1. Time will tell, but one thing’s certain: Liz won’t be going back to DC to “represent” us. I didn’t vote for Gray and I sure as heck didn’t vote for Hageman because of the Trump endorsement – that’s a very presumptive and shallow accusation. As I said, I can’t name one thing Liz did to help Wyoming. I voted for other candidates in the years past, long before all this Trump stuff. It’s just that none of those candidates were viable enough to defeat Liz. But – in the end, Liz resorted to begging for votes from Democrats. That’s pathetic. And Democrats sold their soul to crossover and become Republicans – essentially they added their name to a roster that includes among other things, support for Wyoming’s trigger law for abortion, for example. I’d never do that. My beliefs aren’t for sale. And finally, your response of making accusations of how I only voted for Hageman because of Trump proves the crux of my original comment. Sometimes the answer is not easy and requires a little more effort and an open mind to sort out and understand.

  3. Not only did they leave some bubbles empty but they also voted for a couple of bubbles. Amazing.