By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A bill requiring people to present some type of identification when voting in person is heading to the floor of the Senate for debate this week.
House Bill 75 would require a person to present “acceptable” identification when going to vote in person. The Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions approved the bill on a vote of 4-1 Tuesday, with only Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, voting “no.”
Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, the bill’s sponsor, told Senate colleagues during his testimony that the bill would be critical for Wyoming’s elections.
“Voter ID is a step in keeping our election statues tight, and ensuring there’s an environment where it is difficult to commit fraud, it’s a best practices issue,” he said. “This bill will ensure confidence in our elections.”
Wyoming currently requires identification to register to vote, but not when actually voting in person. This bill would not apply for absentee voting.
Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, cracked a joke during the meeting, asking Gray if he would consider amending the bill to include fishing licenses, a joke referencing to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who Gray plans to challenge in her bid for re-election.
Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, asked Gray what would happen in the event someone’s ID is stolen prior to voting, to which the representative responded an old ID or a temporary, paper one would suffice.
Scott expressed his concern about the bill, noting not everyone has multiple types of ID and adding a voter could be in a bad spot if the ID is lost before voting.
However, Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Towers, interjected, saying identity could still be verified through voting registration records, since an ID is required to register.
“When you live in the backwoods like I do, all the polling people know you,” Driskill said to Gray. “Is there a thought you could be allowed to cast your ballot because you know the polling people? I know mine, we have coffee together.”
Gray said there were some equal protection concerns regarding visual verification of a person’s identity, which is why that situation hadn’t been addressed in the bill.
Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan testified in support of the bill, telling the committee how much work his office had done to help write the legislation.
“You really have every available type of identification to be used in this case, so no one has to feel like there’s an ID they can’t get,” he said. “One of the important things I emphasized early on this was in no way disenfranchising any voters.”
Buchanan did say there have only been three or four instances of voter fraud in the state over the last couple decades, “but it does occur.”
Driskill added no one voluntarily announces they cheated the system, they just do it again.
Nethercott mentioned that as a sitting senator, she was once rejected from a polling place in Laramie County because she did not have her ID.
Tom Lacock, spokesman for AARP, supported amending the bill to allow Medicare IDs to be used as acceptable identification for voting, as many elderly people have no need for photo IDs any longer.
Some of the organizations opposed to the bill included the League of the Women Voters and the Equality State Policy Center.
Marguerite Herman, representing the LWV, said Wyoming simply does not need such a requirement for its voters.
“The only accomplishment of HB75 is to create a hoop for the voters and poll workers to jump through on election day with no corresponding benefit,” she said. “Our voter registration system is solid. Our elections are secure. Wyoming should have no patience for such an expenditure of time, effort and other resources.”