Secretary of State Chuck Gray is praising a judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s voter ID law.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Gray said 2nd Judicial District Court Judge Dawnessa Snyder’s February dismissal was the right decision.
“I was extremely pleased with Judge Snyder’s decision to dismiss the nonsensical, absurd lawsuit attacking Wyoming’s landmark voter ID law,” said Gray, who sponsored the law when he was in the Legislature. “As the prime sponsor of Wyoming's voter ID law, I’ve worked diligently to ensure its ultimate passage, and I never doubted for a second that it would survive constitutional scrutiny.”
The lawsuit challenged a 2021 Wyoming law that requires people to not only show a government-issued ID when registering to vote, but also when voting.
The first part of the law was already in place before 2021, and the lawsuit targeted the extension of required ID to actually vote in a Wyoming election.
The lawsuit filed in Albany County District Court by former state lawmaker Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, on behalf of Wyoming attorney Tim Newcomb, claimed the law infringes on citizens’ ability to vote.
Newcomb challenged the constitutionality of the voter ID law, arguing it impedes the right to vote and conflicts with the Wyoming Constitution.
“It would be an understatement at the least to say I’m disappointed,” Pelkey told Cowboy State Daily about the dismissal. “Wyoming has had a history of very open access to the polls. The biggest problem with this law is it restricts voters' access to the polls.”
Snyder’s biggest issue with Newcomb’s argument is that he relied on theoretical and philosophical arguments to show how voters could be prevented from voting based on the 2021 law. She said a justiciable controversy does not exist by trying to remedy a problem that has not been proven to exist.
This was the crux of the state’s argument defending the law.
“For a controversy to be justiciable, a plaintiff must allege a sufficient tangible interest and that the judicial decision requested will have a practical effect on that interest,” Snyder said.
Wyoming is one of 35 states to have a voter ID law, and one of 20 that require a photo ID. The Wyoming law went into effect in 2021 for local elections but wasn’t used in a full statewide election until 2022.
Pelkey said voter ID laws are a result of a national conservative push.
In 2022, Gray ran his campaign for secretary of state based on a pledge to tighten Wyoming’s election laws. He frequently mentioned the passage of the voter ID law during his campaign and held free showings of “2000 Mules,” a film that questions the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Since there were no major elections in Wyoming by the time the voter ID law was enacted and the lawsuit was filed in April 2022, it would have been difficult for the plaintiffs to provide tangible evidence that the voter ID law prevented people from voting, the judge ruled.
Although he was disappointed with the result, Pelkey mentioned how certain other states still have much more restrictive voter ID laws than Wyoming.
For instance, at certain high-population voting centers in the South, voters sometimes have to wait for hours in line for a chance to vote, yet it is illegal for poll workers in certain locations to provide them with water as they wait.
“Everyone that wants to vote in Wyoming should be able to vote,” Pelkey said. “They just made it a little bit harder.”
Pelkey said he will need to speak to Newcomb before he can say whether they will to appeal the ruling and try to provide evidence from the 2022 elections.
Contact Leo Wolfson at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.