Joey Correnti believes the Wyoming Democratic Party is misinterpreting state law that the party can hold its leadership elections every four years.
He’s filed an official complaint with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office saying state Democrats are required to hold those elections every two years.
“It’s really an issue with the law,” Correnti told Cowboy State Daily about his complaint.
Wyoming Election Statute 22-4-111 says a state central committee shall perform elections in odd-numbered years. The law doesn’t say which odd-numbered years it has to be held on or how frequently, a point Correnti said proves the law is written too vague and violates the state Constitution.
The Wyoming Republican Party holds its elections every two years, which Correnti believes to be the correct interpretation of the law. In May, that party reelected Chairman Frank Eathorne for an unprecedented third term.
The state Democratic Party changed its bylaws in 2020 to allow leadership elections every four years, a move away from the biennial elections the party previously held.
Party Chairman Joe Barbuto was elected in 2021 and will serve his current term through 2025.
“It makes more sense for a chairman to serve an entire election cycle,” Barbuto said. “With all the work that needs to be done and to be accomplished, we need a four-year term.”
Correnti said he learned about Democrats holding elections only every four years in May from a Cowboy State Daily story, where Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, pointed out the difference in the timing of the two parties’ election cycles.
Not Politically Motivated
Correnti, a registered Republican and former chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party, said his complaint isn’t an attempt to score points against Democrats or have a criminal lawsuit filed against the party. Rather, he wants to highlight that the two largest political parties in the state are being allowed to operate under different interpretations of the same law.
“That’s the problem we have with the law now,” he said. “It’s unclear.”
He also pointed out that minor political parties, such as the Libertarian and Constitution parties, can hold their leadership elections whenever they please.
Correnti believes political parties should be considered fully private entities in Wyoming and not governed by state laws, a stance he believes is supported by the U.S. Constitution. The Equal Protection Clause, which is part of the 14th Amendment, says states must treat everyone equally under the law.
The Constitution “very clearly states that we will have political equality for individuals,” he said. “Political parties are one of the groups in which every one that votes is a member. We have to grant that political equality for the members who make up those groups.”
But the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in an opposite direction in May, saying that political parties cannot expand on state law or make their own interpretations of how it’s written. This ruling would also appear to be in contrast to the current discrepancy between the two parties’ interpretations of elections law.
What Will Come Of This?
Correnti highly doubts that Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill will take any action on his complaint. He hopes Secretary of State Chuck Gray will issue an opinion on the matter that helps draw attention of the Legislature’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.
Barbuto said he has not heard anything from the Secretary of State’s office. Gray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.