CASPER — A state legislative committee advanced a bill on Wednesday to impose a requirement for voters to show photo identification at the polls, all but guaranteeing it will pass when it goes to the floor next month.
Sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, the bill has been floated several times in recent years, and has been unsuccessful in each case. Last year, it failed by a narrow margin in the House of Representatives.
This year’s version of the bill, however, has gained the support of 55 co-sponsors in the House and Senate amid escalating concerns from Republican voters following the 2020 presidential election, in which former President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed a false narrative that the election was “stolen” from him through massive voter fraud.
The bill passed the House Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions by a 6-3 vote, with Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan voicing his support for it as a “proactive” measure to increase voter confidence in the integrity of the state’s elections.
Voter fraud is exceedingly rare in Wyoming. According to a fraud database maintained by the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, the state has seen only four convictions in the past 40 years.
But Gail Symons, founder of the organization Civics 307, claimed perception is reality, and that there is a growing group of citizens that thinks the state has an issue with election integrity.
“If this type of legislation will help bolster the feeling we probably do have the most appropriate and capable processes in the country, then that alone makes it well worthwhile,” she said.
Gray, in advocating for the bill, said photo identification requirements could increase voter turnout by increasing voter confidence. He cited declining voter participation in the Georgia runoff elections, which occurred after numerous, unfounded allegations of voter fraud were amplified there by supporters of Trump.
Others who testified against the bill argued it could disenfranchise voters for whom obtaining a government ID would be difficult, while perpetuating concerns of election security already based on the false premise of rampant voter fraud.
While the bill has undergone refinements — including an expanded definition of government identification that includes tribal identifications and Medicare cards — some argued that it still had loopholes that could marginalize voters over a nonexistent concern for Wyoming’s election security.
“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” said Marguerite Herman of the Wyoming League of Women Voters, who opposed the bill.
Others equated the bill to a poll tax that requires citizens to pay a fee to obtain government-issued identification.
“This bill by its very title implicitly impugns the intentions and actions of some voters even though there is no proof,” Chris Merrill, the executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, said in testimony on the measure.