Party switching bill clears second Senate reading

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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would limit when Wyoming voters can change their party affiliation moved one step nearer to final Senate approval on Monday.

SF 160 was approved in its second reading in the Senate, moving it to a third and final Senate vote on Tuesday.

The bill would require that any voter changing party affiliation do so two weeks before absentee ballots are mailed out for a primary election — generally in mid-June.

Under current law, voters can change affiliation at the polls during a primary election. The state Republican party had made a change in the system a priority for the Legislature’s general session.

Supporters maintain political party members should stick to their own parties rather than try to influence the outcome of another party’s primary.

“Party affiliations were there to engage in those things that we agree upon,” said Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne. “When someone comes in to say ‘Hey, I’m going to pick your leader’ that doesn’t belong to our party, it’s never good.”

Opponents unsuccessfully argued that such limits on registration would discourage voter participation.

“Trying to get more people to vote should be what we’re trying to do,” said Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson. “To limit how you can register, when you can register is a short-circuit to closing down the process.”

A similar bill that would have required affiliation changes to be made by May died in the Senate last week.

Updated February 4, 2019 at 7PM.

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