The Wyoming Legislature is considering a voter ID law, and the majority of Teton County’s delegation is confident it will pass.
They also believe more bills seeking to change election systems are coming.
Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, moderated Wednesday’s all-day legislative update, in which he and Teton County’s other representatives and senators chatted with local officials, business leaders and citizens about the state of the ongoing legislative session. They talked about taxes, school funding, state school trust lands in Teton County and more.
But when it came to discussing proposed changes to the state’s election system, Democrats Rep. Andy Schwartz and Sen. Mike Gierau were dismayed.
“I know virtually every county clerk and election officer in the state of Wyoming,” Gierau said, “and I happen to know for a fact that they would rather lose an arm than run a bad election. It’s just absolutely incredible to me that this would even come up.
“But it will,” he said, “and it will pass.”
Schwartz said he thought the measure proposed could make voting “difficult.”
If the voter ID bill passes, as Gierau said, Wyoming will become one of only a handful of states to require photo identification to cast a ballot. The other states are Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia.
As in most of those states, the Wyoming bill would allow people without acceptable ID to vote on a provisional ballot and return in following days to provide identification.
Acceptable IDs would include a Wyoming driver’s license, a state or tribal identification card, a U.S. passport or military card, or a valid Medicare insurance card.
Proponents of voter ID laws claim they are a way to prevent in-person voter fraud and increase election confidence per the National Conference on State Legislatures. Opponents maintain that little fraud of that kind occurs and that requiring photo identification restricts voters’ rights to cast their ballots.
The voter ID law has enough co-sponsors to pass as is: 41 members in the House, and 15 in the Senate.
Yin said other election-related bills should be expected, and a handful are already working their way through the Legislature. One moving through the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee would have Wyomingites elect the attorney general, currently an appointed position.
Another bill, introduced by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a Goshen and Laramie County Republican who intends to challenge Republican Liz Cheney for her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, would see voters pick the state health officer, also currently an appointee.
But more bills may be coming down the pipeline specifically relating to how people vote.
The Wyoming Republican Party passed a resolution Feb. 6 encouraging legislators and state election officials to restrict access to absentee voting, among other things.
It called for limiting absentee voting to members of the U.S. military who are deployed elsewhere and those with “valid” excuses for being unable to vote in person.
The resolution also called for banning mail-in ballots, curbside voting and ballot drop boxes.
Teton County voters had access to all of those options last November, when they cast 12,071 early and absentee ballots. That was 82% of all ballots cast in Jackson Hole.
Teton County GOP Chairman Alex Muromcew said the local delegation to the party’s Feb. 6 central committee meeting voted against the resolution.
Republican Mary Martin, who joined Muromcew there, confirmed that she did so. She supports absentee voting.
“I really want our voting to be open and transparent and fair,” Martin said. “But I don’t want to make it difficult for people to vote.”
Teton County Clerk Maureen Murphy pushed back against the GOP’s letter Wednesday.
“I agree 100% with you, Senator Gierau, that every clerk holds their integrity to the highest and would cut off our arms before we ran an unfair election,” she said. “It’s quite frustrating.”
Former President Donald Trump made repeated unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud after he lost the November election to Joe Biden, who was inaugurated January 20.
Only 32% of Republicans believe the election was free and fair, according to polling by Morning Consult. That’s compared to 92% of Democrats, and 65% of Americans overall.
Federal election officials have said the general election was the “most secure” in history.
Former U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said the Justice Department found no evidence of fraud “on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”