The Wyoming Republican Party’s insistence that the state pass new laws to prevent rampant voter fraud is patently absurd.

The conservative Heritage Foundation has tracked such fraud cases nationally since 1982. According to its website, three have occurred in Wyoming in that 39-year timespan, resulting in the convictions of a man, a woman and a married couple.

They were all registered Republicans. None of their efforts threatened to alter the outcome of an election. And none of their crimes would have been prevented by House Bill 75 – Voter fraud prevention, an unnecessary voter ID measure sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper).

Forty Republicans in Wyoming’s 60-member House and one-half of the Senate are co-sponsoring the bill. That means HB 75 needs only one more senator’s vote to be approved. I’ve never seen a bill more greased for passage than this one.

I must hand it to Wyoming GOP officials and state legislators — when it comes to tackling nonexistent problems, nobody does it better.

The state Republican Party, led by extreme-right officials, passed a resolution Feb. 6 that would ban any form of mail-in balloting, curb-side voting and ballot-collection drop boxes. The party wants to severely limit absentee voting and prohibit any type of electronic machinery from tabulating votes.

I guess we could give all 23 county clerk offices rock slates, chisels and hammers for the official count — that method worked great for the first Stone Age mayoral race — but even low-tech equipment costs money. With our state’s budget crisis, Republican leaders must find a more fiscally conservative way.

Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, a Republican, knows his party’s pleas to fortify the integrity of Wyoming elections are unnecessary. 

“I think most of us would agree that in Wyoming, we do elections the right way. Always have, always will,” Buchanan wrote in a letter to the GOP.

Unlike Colorado and four other states, Wyoming doesn’t mail ballots to all registered voters. But Wyoming has a “no excuses” absentee voting law, so people do not have to offer a reason why they want to cast an absentee ballot.

The state saw a record number of voters in the 2020 general election — evidence of strong voter confidence. More than 278,000 people voted, and nearly half used absentee ballots.

Coupled with the fact that this was achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s nothing short of remarkable.

The Restoration Church in Casper served as one of at least two “consolidated polling centers” in Natrona County for the primary election on Aug. 18, 2020. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

So what’s driving these shrieking demands for “safer” elections in the state? Chalk it up to the loud but debunked claim by former President Donald Trump that Democrats stole the 2020 election from him. Despite losing the popular vote by more than 7 million and the Electoral College by a 306-232 tally, Trump insists he won by a landslide.

His voter fraud claims in the six states he narrowly lost were tossed out by 60 federal and state courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency called the Nov. 3 election “the most secure in American history.”

Even though voter fraud claims in presidential battleground states were without merit, I can at least see what is motivating Republicans to clamp down on voting there. Sometimes they brazenly don’t even hide their agenda

“Of course it’s political,” North Carolina consultant Carter Wrenn told the Washington Post about similar efforts in his state. “Why else would you do it?”

And bills actually protecting and expanding voter rights in the 2020 election proposed by states? According to Trump and Co., they would be horrible. “They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends” last March.

Wyoming Republican Party leaders ran with that ball after Trump’s loss, even though he captured 70% of the state’s vote.

Wyoming’s congressional delegation is 100% Republican, same goes for the five state elected officials. Eighty-eight — 79 out of 90 state legislators  — are Republicans.

That’s as close to a clean sweep as any state will ever get. But apparently it’s not enough for the party’s leaders.

After two failed attempts sponsoring voter ID bills, Gray is virtually assured victory this year with HB 75.

But voter ID laws only have one purpose: Keep would-be voters from impersonating other people. HB 75 wouldn’t have prevented any of the voter fraud cases in Wyoming during the past four decades.

In 2000, Rep. Carolyn Paseneaux, a Casper Republican, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for using a false address at the polls after selling her home in 1997. 

A year later, Gary and Leila Blake of Casper pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor, fraudulent use of absentee ballots. The Blakes voted absentee because they wanted to go elk hunting on Election Day. To do so, they used the absentee ballots that had been sent to their former Evansville address.

In 2014, David Koch, a Cody radio news director and convicted felon in Alaska, was found guilty of illegally voting in the 2010 and 2012 Wyoming elections. He was sentenced to two to four years in prison. Voter ID would not have stopped him from voting.

Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt studied voter impersonation extensively between 2000-14. He found 31 credible accusations out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.

What voter ID laws actually do is suppress voter turnout. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates such laws reduce voter turnout by 2-3 percentage points. It’s enough of a margin to potentially make a difference in many elections.

Rampant voter fraud in Wyoming is a myth. At an online forum last Thursday, the Equality State Policy Center assembled a panel of voting rights and elections experts whose knowledge can help Wyoming lawmakers make better legislation than the likes of HB 75.

Linda Fritz, Crook County Clerk and president of the Wyoming County Clerks Association, explained why she’s not concerned about voting fraud. There are so many safeguards in place — including secure voting machines and bill transporting processes — that it would be nearly impossible for someone with nefarious intent to meddle in an election, she said.

Are there changes Wyoming can make to expand voters’ rights? Absolutely. Despite the record turnout in 2020, thousands of registered voters still decided against casting ballots.

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Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, suggested during the panel that Wyoming adopt automatic voter registration and track registered voters if they change their address through the U.S. Postal Service.

“In a healthy democracy we’re appealing to as many voters as possible … to participate,” Sean Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center for Justice said. “We should really be bringing new people into the fold.

“Rather than appealing to our worst instincts,” he added, “we could be making people feel that their votes do count and welcoming them to the conversation.”

It would seem Wyoming GOP leaders don’t want to have a conversation. Instead, the party of limited government wants to require residents to show a government-approved form of ID or go home without voting. Its officials don’t want residents to be able to vote absentee, even during the nation’s worst health crisis in the past century, but instead would force them to go to the polls and risk illness or death.

I think most people, including Republicans, still believe that when more people vote, it’s better for our democracy. But state GOP officials are more interested in restricting ballot access to people who may pose a threat to their stranglehold on political power. 

The Legislature will pass HB 75, but Gov. Mark Gordon doesn’t have to sign it. Meanwhile, the Wyoming GOP’s call to change absentee voter laws should be shot down before legislators turn the party’s hysterical rant into a law.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. This new law proposed doesn’t benefit all voters as defined the XV and XIX amendments of the constitution. This amendment would make it more difficult for the elderly, disabled who can’t physically stand in line for hours, hearing impaired, visual impairments, rural, and low/middle class who don’t have a car, who don’t have childcare so they can come and stand in line for hours. This plan means the wealthy, physically fit, people can vote what about the rest of the United State citizens in Wyoming.

  2. Jim Crow laws on the way back. As the Republicans hasn’t had the Popular vote in almost 20 years and seeing them losing more seats in DC

  3. Poll duty should be like jury duty. Every voter should work at least one election cycle. “Stop the Steal” is based on ignorance of the process. Anyone who suspects shenanigans should put their time where their mouth is. Call your county clerk and volunteer to be a poll judge. Call your local party head and volunteer to be a poll watcher. Don’t whine, act!

  4. This is simply another republican attempt to disenfranchise voters. They’ve been playing that game for decades, around the country, particularly since the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. They believe that we commoners have no right to interfere with the unquestioned rule of the wealthy. The question is: do we let them continue to get away with it? If the people you elect to “represent” you are taken as a measure, the answer would be a roaring, “YES!”

  5. So the Wyoming GOP wants to ban any form of mail-in balloting, Is this disenfranchisement of the elderly? How many people who are older and suffer from health conditions can go to a polling place? Anyone who is affected by these new rules should very seriously consider a lawsuit against the state.

    The American Constitution grants voting rights to all citizens, not just the ones the GOP wants to vote. And what are they scared of? This is ridiculous.

    You have it right, Kerry.

    “I must hand it to Wyoming GOP officials and state legislators — when it comes to tackling nonexistent problems, nobody does it better.”

    This state desperately needs to diversify its economy and deal with shortages in jobs, funds and teachers. But instead, it does this.

  6. Bless their hearts,
    those state reps who have circled the wagons against voting irregularities and looking for an atta-boy from the national lunatic fringe to solve a “problem” that doesn’t exist.

    The cold hard truth is republicans win when voter turn out is low and this is yet another attempt of gerrymandering without borders. I guess they could remove mail boxes and sorting machines, oh wait they did that already.

    Not sure which is worse, to have spineless national reps like John B. and Cynthia L. who prefer to keep their heads in the sand to protect their future and vote accordingly or to have visionless national reps like John B. and Cynthia L. who have outsized roles because of our state’s resources and not their abilities, either way they need to go.

    I think we should all pitch in and have T come campaign for them both in the next election, we know how it turned out in Georgia.

  7. I would encourage anyone who has concerns about the voting equipment used in Wyoming to contact your local County Clerk. They would be happy to explain how the machines are properly tested for accuracy before they are ever deployed out to the polling places.

    1. That would be a good idea for anyone who has concerns.

      But, unfortunately, facts straight from the horses mouth will still be denied, ridiculed, and tossed aside. Those that are worried about the fairy tale of election fraud will only listen to those that are as gullible as they are.

    2. All county clerks have public demonstrations of how the voting machines work and run test ballots before each election. It’s announced in the legal ads. The canvassing board (with representatives from both major parties) meets after every election to review the election, its problems, and its results. These sessions are open to the public also.

      I encourage you to attend. It’s very educational.

      Volunteer to be an election judge. There’s training first and on Election Day the work starts at 6 a.m. and ends when the precinct’s ballots are turned in–it’s after 7 p.m. You can’t leave the building. There are additional judges working behind the scenes.

      Wyoming does not use Dominion machines–the ones that have been accused of flipping votes–and when ballots were counted by hand in in Georgia very few errors were found. I read the court documents in one of Pennsylvania cases.. The attorney admitted, “There was no fraud.”

  8. Since Wyoming is pretty much a one party State, there must be a lot of suspicion within the Republican Party. I hear the legislature is going to be working on hurricane relief for the State next.

  9. It amazes me that the clear majority party in Wyoming still quakes with fear whenever reasonable voting rules, like absentee ballots, are discussed. It has a stranglehold on the State government already. What more does the party want? This is just another solution to a problem that demonstrably does not exist.

  10. No one seems to standing up to these dictatorial folks in power in the Republican Party. There are doing everything they can totally wipe out dissent of any sort. Those who incur their wrath are verbally strung up. Doesn’t anyone have the back bone to stand up to them in defence of democracy?

  11. I believe if you scrape the hide off the feral hog of Republican voter fraud onslaught you will likely find ALEC , the American legislative Exchange Council. The ALEC hog runs rampant in all fifty states, feeding boilerplate legislation to its compliant legislators on behalf of the conservative cabal that spawns dogmatic doctrine disguised as the democratic process, which it is most definitely not.
    ALEC is well respresented here in Wyoming , with our pavlovian lawmakers abiding the dogwhistles with pedantic precision . They just don’t admit to it. The confirmation is apparent the language of proposed legislation on certain hot button issues from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast, from the Gulf to the Great Lakes. ALEC’s hoofprints are there in plain sight , on the trail of tightening immigration, reducing corporate taxation , fighting gun control , diluting environmental rules , weakening labor unions, and of course the imaginary scourge of voter fraud. So much coincidence in draft legislation cannot be explained with the blanket ” great conservative minds think alike ” argument. It’s just collusion on a grand scale but done mostly out of sight in darker smokier lairs or with ciphered communiqués from headquarters. ALEC has been doing this for nearly 40 years since the closing years of the Regana era , across six presidential terms.

    The Wyoming GOP can not be said to be doing their own critical thinking or innovating legislation with a straight face. That is way above the WyoGOP’s intellectual grade scale. The voter fraud issue discussed here is a smoking gun for all that … superfluous legislation in a state that has no real need of it . A dubious solution in search of a near nonexistent problem. The Wyoming legislature excels at that .

    1. Gee whiz, you are not able to write without using 50 dollar words that a lot folks would need to look up to understand your point of view. Wowee, you must be part of the left liberial democratic party. This article as well as the commits does nothing but run down the Republican base. Really dude! Wyoming has be a Republican red state for years unlike some of our neighboring states due to the fact that liberals left their homes because they did not like the politics or high tax rates thus becoming blue states.
      I for one, reguardless of my poliltical views, have become so friggen tired of everyone whinning becsuse they do not get their way.

      1. So liberals use too big of words for you to comprehend? As you said…..really dude?

        The unspoken gerrymandering of yesteryear is now front and center. The party isn’t even trying to disguise it anymore. The lower the turnout of voters, the better the republican party does. Instead of changing the parties platform to accommodate a wider swath of voters, they instead choose to just not let people vote who aren’t on their “team”.

        To me, the “whinning” is coming from the side of the sore losers.

  12. What part of voting integrity are you Democrats afraid of? WE, the people, demand verification & validation. Wyoming is using voting machines which EVERYONE knows can & have been used to manipulate votes. Democrats are clever criminals that used computers/servers from outside our country to swing the 2020 presidential election. We need to return to fair elections or why bother voting at all — but you already knew that.

    1. “Wyoming is using voting machines which EVERYONE knows can & have been used to manipulate votes. Democrats are clever criminals that used computers/servers from outside our country to swing the 2020 presidential election.” Just curious, Gretchen, where did you get this information?

    2. Actually, Gretchen , you need to first ask your salient question of Republicans, not the Dems. What part of voter integrity are Republicans so afraid of ? The Voting Rights Act of 1965 still has yet to be fully implemented because of Republic resistance, deflection , and obstinance. Jim Crow lives. All what the Dems want is the physical ways and means to assure that every AMERICAN has a ballot, Which is a constotutional mandate of the highest order. Yet we are still quite a ways from that worthy goal.

      Your assertion that Wyoming voting machines are being used to produce flawed results is a total falsehood. Got any evidence ? Please.

  13. In spite of all the lame arguments Mr.Drake has proposed against stricter voting requirements, he has actually made no effort to explain why the more stringent rules should not be implemented. He has lots of “not necessary” and “absurd” comments but my point is WHY NOT put the requirements in place to avoid fraud, rigged voting machines, miscounts, more votes than voters,ballot harvesting, multiple votes, wrong polling place, and outright cheating. From the observation of our recent national election, it seems that the fraud came from the very authorities in charge in many states…maybe not so much in Wyoming, but we conservative voters feel it may be coming to our state. We need laws that will provide immediate access to voting machines, ballots and all records attached to the actual election….no hiding of tallies, ballots, actual voting machines! Voter ID is also an idea whose time has come. The more transparency and accountability the better!

    1. I guess you didn’t read the article- there is no need for additional regulations because there isn’t any voter fraud. I suppose you believe that China pays the bill for tariffs and the Mexico paid for the wall. Get real , all eligible Wyoming citizens should be able to vote by mail. Sorry, it’s the Republicans that are afraid.

      1. And not to forget that hugo Chavez and Venezuela were the masterminds of the dominion “fraud”

        Neat trick considering Chavez has been dead for a while now..

    2. Well said. Drake mistakes his own emotions for facts. There is ample evidence of election fraud if you merely look.

      1. So the 60+ court cases that have been dismissed just haven’t looked hard enough? That’s the argument now?

        In legal situations, there has to be some evidence and not just whackadoo conspiracy theories. If there were facts to back up your false narrative, they would’ve been public by now.

        There was no voter fraud, the election wasn’t stolen, chrump lost. Live in reality please.

        Cheers

  14. “stranglehold on political power” says it all. Power, not good governance, seems to be the underlying theme in politics. And if any member of the clan (i. e,, Liz Cheney) decides to vote conscience over party power, they are chastised and labeled for replacement by another power broker.