By Rod Miller, columist
Earlier this week, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee decided to draft legislation to modify how primary elections are conducted. Again.
It looks like they’ll monkey around with open (or “jungle”) elections and ranked choice voting to see if they can craft a primary election system that will make everyone happy.
Then I read about a couple of legislators who want to strip the responsibility for elections from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office because their noses are out of joint that Chuck Gray won the GOP primary election for that post.
On top of that, there’s a move afoot by legislators to draft an independent candidate to run in the general election against Gray. While all this is going on, key personnel in the Secretary of State’s office are jumping ship because of Gray’s victory.
I interpret these political goat entrails to mean that our legislature is perplexed by the result of the primary election, and is trying to “fix” our primary system. Again.
I’m here to testify that the lege is doing nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig. They think they can tweak and fine-tune our primaries with add-ons, patches, duct tape and spit. This is delusional, particularly given the hyper-partisan nature of politics in Wyoming today.
The only rational solution is for the government of the State of Wyoming to, once and for all, completely divest itself of any statutory responsibility toward any political party and toward the method that these private organizations employ to choose their candidates.
For Wyoming government to continue coddling and enabling partisan organizations is akin to remaining in an abusive relationship when other options exist. The best thing is for the parties and state government to sever all ties and go their separate ways. Divorce, Wyoming style.
As long as government is enmeshed in the workings of parties, the parties will leverage that involvement and make it harder for government to do its job. And parties will resent government sticking its nose into a private organization’s business.
It will take considerable political will for the legislature to break it off with the parties. But that is the only way to prevent the entire state from being whipsawed by internal party insanity.
In the cold hard light of reality, all the State of Wyoming needs from any political party is a slate of candidates for the general election. The state’s involvement with partisan organizations should begin and end there.
The severing of these ties is long overdue.
As Paul Simon sings it, “Just drop off the key, Lee. Get a new plan, Stan. No need to be coy, Roy. Just set yourself free.”
This breakup will be bitter, but necessary. Hearts will be broken, and prom night dreams crushed. But this relationship must come to an end. And both the State of Wyoming and the various political parties will be better off.
The legislature needs to rip the band-aid off quickly, and repeal every statute in Wyoming’s code that binds government to political parties. Every one. This session.
This should be the last damn time that we need to listen to whining – from any quarter – about our primary elections, and pleas for the state to do something about it.
I’ve opined on this issue before [Rod Miller: Cut the Apron Strings!] but now, a year hence, we see the same ol’ drama as our legislature tries to placate private political organizations by making minor adjustments to a flawed primary election system.
Here’s hoping that the Wyoming Legislature will heed the current turmoil and act to finally remove it from our common body politic. We don’t need any more band-aids. We need a sharp scalpel and someone with the wisdom and grit to use it.
And it needs to happen now.
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