Although many topics Secretary of State Chuck Gray brought up during a Saturday town hall hosted by the Wyoming Freedom Caucus were not new – such as opposing crossover voting, tightening voter ID laws and criticizing the media for perceived attacks against him – he did speak about another concern: voter residency.
Gray said the Secretary of State’s office will work in the upcoming interim legislative session toward ensuring all registered voters are legitimate Wyoming residents by instituting firm residency requirements.
“There’s a big big hole in our statutes,” Gray said, one that has Wyoming’s 23 county clerks “very disturbed.”
The Wyoming Constitution had required people be residents of the state for one year and their respective counties for 60 days before voting in any election.
This was struck down in 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that lengthy requirements for voting in state and local elections are unconstitutional and suggested a 30-day residency requirement is ample. Fifteen states now enforce the maximum 30-day requirement.
Under current state statutes, there are no requirements for length of residency beyond a voter being a resident of the state at the moment that he or she registers. This is done by showing a Wyoming driver license or another form of identification and providing a Wyoming address.
Focus On Elections
Gray said he’s also going to continue to “strengthen” Wyoming’s voter ID laws.
During the recent legislative session, Gray supported legislation forbidding voters from using a student ID as a standalone form of identification for voting. This was voted down by the state House, but lawmakers did pass a bill allowing voters to present a concealed carry permit as ID.
Gray helped pass legislation in 2021 that requires a form of identification be shown when voting in Wyoming. He also supported legislation that passed into law requiring voters to show an ID when requesting an absentee ballot in person
Gray also reiterated his position on environmental, social and governance (ESG) financial scoring, describing these policies as a “woke clown show.”
“I’m not going to approve a single investment advisor that does not agree to denounce that,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.
Gray said there will be “further action” coming out of the Secretary of State’s office on ESG and addressing new efforts being implemented by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to provide money to local governments to run elections.
This funding, famously known as “Zuck Bucks,” was used in the 2020 election, but not in Wyoming. According to Fox News, 24 states have enacted bans or restrictions on private funding of local election offices.
Gray, as he has before, lashed out against the media and its coverage of his 2022 Republican primary campaign.
In the waning days of his race against Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, former Secretary of State Max Maxfield released to the press a complaint he filed with the Federal Elections Commission in which he alleged Gray misrepresented his source of campaign income.
Maxfield accused Gray of lying about where he got nearly $300,000 in loans he said were made to himself “from his personal accounts” to the campaign over the first half of 2021.
“Colluding with that liar Max Maxfield,” Gray said about the reporting of the complaint. “We cannot put that phony narrative that we had committed a felony, which we have been totally exonerated on.
“We cannot allow this lying media to get away with it.”
Gray claimed shortly after Maxfield’s filing in August 2022 that Nethercott was being investigated by the state for violating finance laws. A spokesperson with the Secretary of State office said at the time there was no such investigation.
On Saturday, Gray said there will be more information released soon about how he has been cleared of the accusations.
On April 11, Gray repaid the $178,012.06 he owed to himself, according to FEC documents.
Gray made no mention of any ongoing or future plans for the many other duties his office oversees such as the registration of business entities, public notaries, registered agents, trade names, trademarks, document authentication and agricultural liens.
One of Gray’s biggest wins from the 2023 Legislature was getting a bill passed that prohibits voters from changing party affiliation after the opening of the candidate filing period, a practice known as crossover voting.
Gray provided a little insight into some of the behind-the-scenes effort that went into passing the bill.
He said Attorney General Bridget Hill expressed strong concerns that the bill could prevent new voters from registering and affiliating with a party after the filing period opens. Gov. Mark Gordon shared similar concerns in a letter when he let the bill pass into law without his signature.
“It’s totally wrong interpretation,” Gray said.
Hill did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.
Gray boasted that in a meeting with the governor’s staff on the bill, his department “obliterated” their arguments on the crossover bill and thus was able to prevent a Gordon veto.
“Crossover voting is the law of the land,” he proclaimed.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, has vowed to clarify in future legislation for the 2024 session that no new voters will not be prevented from participating in Wyoming’s primary elections.
Gray said he specifically recruited Haroldson to bring the crossover bill, as he felt that introducing it in the Senate could be a losing battle.
State Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, still brought his version of the crossover voting bill, but his legislation was defeated in the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.