Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee meeting

From left, Sen. Charlie Scott, of Casper, Rep. Tyler Lindholm, of Sundance, and Sen. Bill Landen, of Casper, laugh off a gaffe while calling a joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee meeting to order at the Teton County Library.

Two bills that would have placed additional restrictions on the voting process in Wyoming failed before the Wyoming Legislature’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee at a meeting Monday in Jackson.

The first would have required voters to present “acceptable identification” at the polls. Proponents said the bill aimed to prevent voter fraud, though county clerks said that fraud isn’t a concern in Wyoming.

“We may not have a problem in this state, but there’s no need to wait until it happens,” said Rep. Roy Edwards, R-Campbell.

“The whole idea is, where’s our integrity in our elections,” said Rep. Scott Clem, R-Campbell.

Ultimately, Clem and Edwards were the only two on the 14-member joint committee who supported the bill.

Rep. Mike Yin, D-Teton, testified against the bill, saying it could be a significant roadblock to voting access and disenfranchise certain groups of voters.

“Any roadblock we put in the way of allowing citizens in Wyoming the right to vote, I’m generally going to be against,” Yin said.

He added that voters are required to present photo ID when registering to vote, so there’s no need to require voters to again present photo ID when they cast their ballots.

“I think this bill right now is a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist,” Yin said.

Tom Lacock, with Wyoming’s AARP, told lawmakers that turnout among older voters is particularly high — 68% of voters aged 60-69 cast ballots in 2018 — but that population often doesn’t have access to identification like a driver’s license. He said one in five folks over 65 don’t have a current government ID.

That argument influenced several of the legislators.

“I am persuaded this would provide a burden on some of the senior citizens,” Sen. Charles Scott, R-Natrona, said.

“I think this bill has some good bones, but there’s no meat on it as far as fixing all the potential problems that could exist,” said Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Crook/Weston. “If we’re going to adopt something like this, we should be darn sure it does exactly what we think it does without any ambiguity.”

Another failed bill sought to end voters’ ability to change their party affiliations on the day of a primary election. Voters are now free to change affiliations up to two weeks before a primary and then again on primary day.

That issue was the Wyoming Republican Party’s top priority last legislative session, after failed gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess said independents and Democrats switching to vote in the Republican primary on Election Day caused him to lose to more moderate candidate Mark Gordon, who went on to be elected governor. A “Switch for Wyoming” group even formed urging voters to do exactly that.

Yin testified opposing that bill, too. He questioned if the bill accomplished anything.

“I think I understand the impetus, which is the election in 2018, a specific election where some people were asked to change their party affiliation,” Yin said. “I’m a little confused — is this going to stop people from changing their party affiliation? Just on the day of the election. What stops anyone from asking those people to do it two weeks before?”

Sen. Cale Case, R-Fremont, said voters would be able to get around the restriction by unregistering and then re-registering under a different party.

“Couldn’t someone just change affiliation by unregistering themselves, then reregistering? What does this bill accomplish?” Case said.

Case also suggested the bill could infringe upon people’s freedom to affiliate as desired.

“The First Amendment of the Constitution allows people freedom of association and to peaceably assemble in ways they want,” Case said. “I maintain assembling with the political party you want is part of the First Amendment.”

Though the committee shot down the two bills, they could resurface during the legislative session if any lawmaker brings them back up.

The committee did advance a bill that would allow Native citizens to use tribal IDs as identification for registering to vote.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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