By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily political reporter
Most of Laramie County’s delegates to the Wyoming Republican Party’s convention in Sheridan should not be seated at the convention, its Credentials Committee decided Thursday.
The Credentials Committee voted 15-8 to recommend to the convention’s full slate of delegates that Laramie County only be allowed to seat three delegates instead of the 36 the county originally sent to the state meeting in Sheridan.
The committee decided to only seat the Laramie County party’s three central committee members.
The recommendation, made as punishment for the county party’s alleged violation of party rules, will have to be approved by the rest of the state’s delegates during the convention on Saturday to take effect.
However, the same committee voted against taking similar action against Sublette County’s delegates, even though it was accused of a similar violation of party rules.
The Credentials Committee, a board typically convened as more of a procedural clearing house, has taken on a more high-profile role during this year’s convention.
The purpose of the committee is to decide whether each of the 23 Wyoming county party delegates and alternates were properly certified at their county’s convention.
A complaint submitted to the state GOP’s executive committee accused the Laramie County party of committing multiple procedural violations at its county convention, including not ranking alternate delegates, failing to call for nominations from the floor and failure to vote for delegates using a secret ballot.
The executive committee decided to have the issue addressed by the Credentials Committee.
Laramie County is the state’s largest and contains about one-third of the state’s registered Republicans. Natrona County, which also contains about one-third of the state’s Republicans, has already seen its delegate count reduced from 33 to six because of an ongoing dispute over dues.
During the Credentials Committee’s meeting, committee members were divided over the need to take action against Laramie County.
“There’s a lot of misinformation that I think is leading to this motion being made,” Laramie County GOP Chairman Dani Olsen said, denying the claim the party didn’t take motions from the floor and bringing minutes from the county’s meeting in March to back up her case.
Michael Lundgren of Lincoln County and Susan Porden of Sheridan County, however, accused Laramie County of disenfranchising voters by violating the rules.
Porden said “she couldn’t imagine being disenfranchised by those in power” and said it was Olsen’s job to explain to voters, not the Credentials Committee, how they were disenfranchised.
Mary Martin, Teton County Party GOP chairman, spoke on behalf of Laramie County.
“One of the things I’m bothered with is certain individuals think they need to police other counties,” she said. “As the Republican Party we want home rule, county rule.”
Jeb Hanson of Niobrara County warned the committee to be mindful of the precedent its actions might set.
“We really need to be careful,” Hanson said. “We could be opening the door to attack any faction of the party don’t like. This is cherry picking. We need to be on the honor system. There is a proper time to make objections. It is not later at a state executive committee meeting.”
A proposal later in the morning to reconsider the vote against Laramie County was defeated by a vote of 14-6.
The complaints against Laramie County spurred Gail Symons of Sheridan County to submit complaints of similar rule violations by Albany, Crook and Sublette counties.
Symons said at the time she submitted the complaints that she did not believe any of the county parties acted intentionally, but said all county parties should be treated the same.
Lundgren said the issue was one of integrity.
“Election notice and integrity are two very different things,” Lundgren said. “I agree with party of rule but when there is a violation, each violation should be taken into consideration.”
But Olsen said the decision not to take any action against. Sublette County showed the committee was selectively enforcing its own rules.
Mary Lankford, a member of the Sublette County Republican Party’s central committee, told Cowboy State Daily she was denied an opportunity to volunteer as a delegate to the state convention because Sublette County did not accept any nominations for delegates from the floor during its convention in March.
“I fully intended to volunteer to serve as a delegate to the State Convention, as I am a duly elected Precinct woman representing Pinedale, and a member of the County Central Committee,” she said in an email. “There were other delegates present who intended to do the same.”
Lankford cited the county rules requiring that nominations from the floor be entertained and said the Sublette County GOP declined to do so.
“At the end of the day’s agenda, a slate of delegates and alternates was read, and no nominations were allowed from the floor,” she said. “A voice vote confirmed the slate, and a quick motion to adjourn the meeting was passed.”
Olsen said she is still holding out hope that all of the county’s will be seated for the convention on Saturday by the rest of the convention’s delegates. She said all of her members will be present and will take part in the vote.