Wyoming Republicans Part Of National Shift To Work Within ‘Rigged’ Election Systems

Some Republicans in Wyoming, similar to what's happening on the national stage, are shifting their approach to election practices. Although they may not prefer mail-in ballots and early voting, they concede they may have to work within these parameters.

LW
Leo Wolfson

June 25, 20235 min read

A polling place in Cheyenne in November 2022.
A polling place in Cheyenne in November 2022. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Republican concerns about the security of America’s election systems and the way these systems have been used in recent elections have been rejected by courts, while states are acting on their own.

There now seems to be a shift in how the party views mail-in ballots and how to address election security concerns with the practice.

In Wyoming, a number of measures have become law in recent years to tighten Cowboy State election security. Those include new voter ID requirements and legislation that prohibits voters from changing party affiliation after the candidate filing period opens, a practice commonly called “crossover voting.”

Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese told Cowboy State Daily that she believes the confidence of voters in her county in elections has improved, somewhat, over the past year.

“With some of the law changes, maybe some people are feeling a little better about it,” she said.

On the national stage, former President Donald Trump and 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, two of the most prominent GOP voices who have questioned 2020 election procedures, have somewhat shifted their stance on early voting.

‘Work In Their Rigged System’

Trump named early voting as one of the leading causes of fraud following his reelection loss.

Over the last few months, Trump has shifted his stance saying that if laws don’t change to address election security, Republicans have “no choice” but to “change our thinking” on early and mail-in voting — at least until the party is successful in changing these methods.

Lake, who has unsuccessfully challenged her election loss in Arizona, has espoused similar beliefs. 

“While you know how I feel about mail-in ballots, if this is the game we have to play, if we’ve got to work in their rigged system, we’ll work in their rigged system,” she said.

The Republican National Committee recently has agreed, announcing that it has created a program to promote early voting by mail and in person.

Some Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has argued that members of the GOP have hurt the party’s chances in elections by opposing absentee and other early voting measures.

“I think telling people not to send in a mail ballot is a huge mistake, and it ends up reducing the pool of prospective voters,” DeSantis said in a radio interview conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.

Wyoming Is More Secure

For people like oilfield workers and members of the military, absentee voting can be a critical measure to ensure they can vote. Freese said measures such as Wyoming legislation passed this year requiring an ID to pick up an absentee ballot are helpful.

There have been very few charged instances of election fraud in Wyoming over the last few decades, and state county clerks have said that any election crimes were always handed off to their respective county attorneys for investigation. 

Freese said that despite concerns about election security on a national level, Wyoming’s elections have been sound.

Bank Your Vote

The RNC effort, called Bank Your Vote, calls for Republicans to take advantage of legal election practices, including where third parties are allowed to collect completed ballots, commonly called “ballot harvesting.”

Twenty-six states allow voters to designate someone else to return their ballots for them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A dozen of those states limit the number of ballots the designee can collect and return on behalf of others. Ten states allow a ballot to be returned by a voter's family member. 

Trump and Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray have both spoken against ballot harvesting in the past. Gray hosted free screenings of a movie during his 2022 campaign that alleged ballot harvesting led to the corrupting of the 2020 presidential election.

Ballot harvesting is illegal in Wyoming, a misdemeanor offense.

Freese said she hasn’t encountered any instances of ballot harvesting during her 45 years of working elections in Wyoming.

But in the face of other parties using ballot harvesting to bolster their candidates, the RNC says Republicans need to level the political playing field.

Wyoming’s Changes

In Wyoming, Gray has made tightening election security the No. 1 issue for his office.

“We are focused on addressing concerns and listening to the citizens of Wyoming, so that we may advance and increase election integrity,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

He was one of the biggest proponents of a bill that passed this year that makes crossover voting less likely.

His office also recently revised its internal policies to increase disclosure of public election information. There will now be a comprehensive review of the state’s voter registry system’s interaction with the Department of Health’s Vital Statistics Services to make sure dead people are taken off of the state’s voter rolls more quickly. 

Gray also said during his campaign he wants to ban using ballot drop boxes. He told Cowboy State Daily when asked last week it's still a priority.

Still Wary

While the RNC and prominent Republicans like Trump and Lake are saying the party needs to use early voting and mail-in ballots, that doesn’t mean they embrace them.

Freese said there’s still concern about security and that some Wyoming Republicans continue to push the state to only hold elections on hand-counted paper ballots.

“There’s still some who are not feeling so good about elections,” she said. “I still feel like there’s a division no matter how much education you do on elections.”

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter