As long as voters are willing to jump through some hoops, the crossover-voting ban won’t block all attempts to change party affiliation ahead of the 2024 election. 

That’s according to an example laid out in a recent directive Secretary of State Chuck Gray provided to county clerks, which came to light during legislative conversations about how the new crossover-voting ban could inadvertently disenfranchise new voters. Ultimately, lawmakers on Thursday rejected a draft bill to fix ambiguous language in the law, leaving a promise to the governor unfulfilled — in addition to an intact loophole for crossover voters. 

It took several years to get the ban to the governor’s desk, which supporters said was necessary to stop registered Democrats, minor party and unaffiliated voters from changing their party affiliation in order to participate in the primary election as Republicans. Conservatives argued that Democrats voting in GOP primaries resulted in politicians who weren’t reflective of the party’s wishes. But backers of the practice said it produced more public electoral participation in a state where Republicans dominate nearly all aspects of state government.

The version that ultimately passed both chambers, which came after a large number of Democrats crossed over to vote for then-U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in 2022, created a 96-day blackout period ahead of the primary election, effectively forcing voters to choose a party before choosing a candidate. 

Gov. Mark Gordon, alongside other Republicans, raised concerns that the blackout period could inadvertently restrict new voters — such as an 18-year-old or someone with restored voting rights — from registering to vote altogether. However, Gordon let the bill become law without his signature in March after he said he was reassured by the bill’s sponsor and others that they would “work on clarifying the legal ambiguity before the next primary election.” 

To do just that, the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee met several times in the legislative off-season, also known as the interim. The culmination of that work came to a halt on Thursday when the committee voted 7-6 with one excused against a bill draft with clarifying language. 

After leading the charge to reject the bill, Gray reassured lawmakers that his recent directive got the job done. 

“I think it is clear in the statute,” Gray told the committee. “I think it becomes further clearer when you read [Wyoming’s election code] in its entirety. And just to clear it up further, we issued the directive in line with our discussion with you in August and in line with our discussions with the governor going back to our 11th hour meeting the day he needed to make the decision.”

Sent to the clerks on Oct. 24, Gray’s directive provides instructions for enforcing the crossover-voting ban. It also makes clear that the new law does not completely restrict registered voters from changing their party affiliation — what supporters of the ban set out to accomplish. 

Last week’s meeting was the final opportunity for the joint committee to throw its support behind legislation before the next election. Unless an individual lawmaker offers a version of the bill that succeeds in February’s budget session both the ban’s ambiguity and loophole are likely to stay on the books when voters head to the ballot box in 2024.


Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland), a corporations committee member, was lead sponsor of the crossover-voting ban during the 2023 legislative session. He told the committee last week he’d given his word to revise the law’s language, but the draft bill was not the solution. 

“I will help fix that. I will help be a part of that. But I don’t believe this does that,” he said. 

Instead, Haroldson said, the state could rely on Gray’s directive, at least until the 2025 general session when lawmakers have more time and flexibility. He also harkened back to some of the original discussion about the bill’s language, which wrestled with using “elector” versus “qualified elector.” Haroldson said he’d prefer to address that language throughout the entire election code and not the ban alone. 

“This is just fixing a very small sliver of a much larger picture,” Haroldson said. Haroldson did not respond to WyoFile’s request for comment. 

Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland) speaks on the House floor during the 2022 legislative session. (Mike Vanata/Wyofile)

As it stands, the crossover-voting ban would not restrict voters who canceled their registration ahead of the cutoff date from re-registering and affiliating with a party different than the one they had affiliated with previously. 

Still, the ban is a “huge improvement,” Gray told WyoFile in an email, “from where Wyoming was before I took office, when voters were allowed to raid other party’s primary up until the day of the election.

“Wyoming now has one of the strongest primaries in the nation. I look forward to continuing to work with the Wyoming Legislature on strengthening the integrity and security of Wyoming’s elections.”

To clarify to clerks how to apply the ban, Gray’s office provided six scenarios within the directive. The fifth, in particular, describes how registered voters are still legally permitted to cancel their registration ahead of the blackout period, thereby making it possible to re-register and affiliate with a political party after the cutoff date. 

“Joni is a registered Republican but she cancels her voter registration on May 2nd. Joni re-registers to vote on August 1st as a Democrat. Joni shall be allowed to register as a Democrat and vote as a Democrat in the primary election,” the directive states.

During the committee meeting, Wyoming GOP Executive Director Kathy Russell advocated against making any revisions to the ban. Doing so, she said, would create the “option to go around the statute that was passed last year.”

Sen. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) told Russell that it was Gray’s directive that suggested a loophole or “option to go around” already exists in statute. 

“I just throw that out there because I want you as a representative of your organization to be understanding about the way current statute is going to be interpreted based on what the Secretary of State has just released,” Barlow said. 

Secretary of State Chuck Gray in May 2021 during his now-suspended congressional run. (Nick Reynolds/WyoFile)

Fear and paranoia 

Others at the meeting objected to the directive altogether as a means of interpreting laws. 

“My concern here is that I don’t believe that it is the secretary of state’s responsibility to interpret law,” said Gail Symons of Civics 307, a nonpartisan blog dedicated to educating the public on state government. 

“I think it is the Legislature’s responsibility to write laws that are so clear that it doesn’t require executive branch clarification.” 

Chairman Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander), who supported the proposed revisions, said the law is where voters will go looking for guidance. 

“My constituents don’t go and read secretary of state directives. I’m sorry, they don’t,” Case said. 

Case had opposed the ban earlier this year and pushed back on what he called “paranoia” that the committee was aiming to undo the ban altogether.  

“I disagree with the original bill … I think people should be able to change parties all the way,” Case said. “But … we’re not messing with that. We’re just dealing with a situation where there’s a brand new person who needs to vote in Wyoming and they don’t match up with the timeline we previously established.”

Meanwhile Sen. Brian Boner (R-Douglas) said it was important the committee acknowledge the ban’s controversial history. 

“I’ve sat and learned some very creative ways for a bill to die watching the various iterations of [a crossover-voting ban] fail throughout the years,” Boner said. “So I think there’s a general lack of trust — not making a call on any one legislator or secretary of state or whatever. But there’s a general lack of trust out there because this is still very fresh in people’s minds.”

The governor’s office declined to comment.

Maggie Mullen reports on state government and politics. Before joining WyoFile in 2022, she spent five years at Wyoming Public Radio.

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  1. I find it ironic that the party that trumpets‘Freedom & personal responsibility’ is the one trying to force everyone to do what they say or else. Whether it’s who you can vote for, what books you can read, or what health care decisions you can make. I think it’s time to replace these folks with someone who’s at least competent to work for everybody’s best interest!

  2. Love all of the comments. Absolutely, I have been a democrat and a republican, that’s what democracy is all about, you have a choice to vote either party. I have never been so biased to only stick with one party. Come on you Republicans, reach out and try something new. Try voting for a democrat. We are trying to pick the best politician to help the people of Wyoming, not the invested rich corporations, who actually are controlling our politicians across the USA, both parties are getting bought out.

  3. When the Republican dominated legislature rigs the primary so that only Republicans can vote for Republican candidates in a Republican dominated state, why should anyone else bother to vote at all since the outcome is so clearly determined? Open Primaries is the only hope for electing moderate, “reasonable” Republican candidates in this state.

  4. Even Republican voters are starting to see that they belong to a party that has failed them and that is dying. It’s kind of amusing to watch them change the rules as they try to rig the game in their favor. If you want your vote to count, register as a Republican and then vote accordingly.

  5. LOL – I don’t think they (GOP) realize how many Dems have been registered Republicans for many years now and don’t switch right before a primary. The only way to have a voice in this state is to vote in primary elections, so I’ve been a registered Republican, as has most my family, for many years so we can vote for who we feel is the least dangerous GOP candidate in the primary and best candidate in the general election. The states GOP party is a mess, just like the national party, and it needs all help it can get LOL!

  6. Quit narrowing the field of voters! The number of eligible voters who actually vote keeps going down. An open primary the solution. If the republican leadership feels they truly represent the majority of voters, then they should have nothing to fear. An open primary is the only way for voters to express their desire for a more moderate direction. As the crossover voter (which facts do not support the cross over voters had any influence of the outcomes) band stands now, the only people who can vote their choice is very narrow. Open the primary to all candidates-republican, democrat and other parties, let the voters chose and end the stranglehold of the minority far right Freedom Caucus on our state elections. Open primaries will increase voter participation.

    1. Well put. I agree; however, I believe the ultra conservatives are willing to gain power through any means including suppressing voter rights and repressing alternative views.

  7. “The 2 party system is corrupt and there is too much division in our country”-pretty much everyone

    “Lets pass laws making it impossible to switch parties”-Wyoming Republicans

  8. Unfortunately, if you’re a Democrat you should register as a Republican. That’s the only way you will have any voting power. Maybe we can weed out some of the republican fascists that want to control our lives.

  9. Why is GOP so afraid of any voters? If they do right thing for citizens they don’t need to worry about any voter voting for who or what they wish for. It is political party’s that need to shape up. Not the voters.

  10. Yet another example of election interference. It was on full display even in Wyoming in 2022. The bill does nothing, leaves a loophole, and don’t think for a minute that the left won’t take full advantage of it, that’s what they do.
    While it might not make much of a difference now, the left is moving in in droves, and it will certainly make a difference in the future, and on small local elections, it can make a difference now.
    The biggest problem we have is a lack of turnout for the primary elections, which are far more important than the general election, nothing is more important than choosing the “right” candidate.

    1. Oh yes, the dreaded “left” that advocates for treating people decently (like providing medical care by expanding Medicaid) and is so ‘dependent’ on social welfare. That wouldn’t be a Wyoming value (which sucks at the teet of the Federal government for nearly half the state’s territory). Apparently, voting in a primary for the least-worst Republican is anathema. Thanks for the heads up. /s

    2. You are far too worried about non-existent threats. You should channel that energy into something productive or rational.