LARAMIE — The question of how secure America’s elections are is still a top issue for many members of the Wyoming Republican Party.
During the party’s Central Committee meeting Saturday, state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne made a point to discuss election security, saying although progress has been made since the 2020 presidential election, the security of American elections still falls short.
Legislatures in battleground states like Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia have recently passed laws enacting stricter and more narrow election standards, which Eathorne touts as a win.
“The best way to address election integrity success would be to look at what’s happening in state legislatures,” he said.
But he also expressed some skepticism that this legislation will make an impactful difference because, “there’s going to continue to be problem states.”
“I think we can all be a little nervous about the security of our elections nationwide,” Eathorne said. “That just points to us needing to redouble our efforts here.”
Eathorne believes real election law changes will be made by state and county Republican parties lobbying with their respective secretaries of state. Secretaries of state and lieutenant governors typically oversee state elections in the U.S.
Eathorne said Wyoming needs to “continue to be a model for elections nationwide.”
Former legislator Marti Halverson, from Lincoln County, and Albany County resident Rick Martin have been leading an election integrity committee within the state GOP. Eathorne said this committee took some direction from the Republican National Committee, but also received help from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office.
Park County resident Karen Jones said she believes former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election and that “someone with Alzheimer’s didn’t get elected.” Although she has no great concerns about the security of Wyoming’s elections moving forward, she wants to see more testing performed of the state’s election processes.
Each county already hosts a public test of election equipment before each primary and general election. A statewide audit is also performed after each election cycle.
Jones dismissed the significance of these tests and said she wants to see is a public test on a ballot that had already been cast.
“We can’t just assume everything is good,” she said.
Why No Transparency?
Eathorne also expressed frustration that some aspects of election documents are confidential and said the state’s county clerks aren’t transparent enough.
“My county clerk says, ‘there’s no audit needed, you don’t need to look here,’” Eathorne said. “Why would you say that? Let’s open the books. Let’s take a look. Let’s do one audit. Let’s do a spot check.”
Jones had a somewhat softer perspective, saying the clerks are just “doing what they’re told to do.”
The Republican National Committee has a Committee on Election Integrity, of which Wyoming National Committeewoman Nina Webber is a member. Webber said the group is striving for the “same efforts as the Wyoming Republican Party.”
Those, she said, are “clean and accurate elections.”
Although Webber supports the idea of hand-counted paper ballots, she also said there could be potential issues of fraud with hand counting if the ballots were reproduced.
Eathorne expressed confidence in the election committee, but that it can’t release a report without “the press getting a hold of it and putting their spin on it.”
He said the committee will meet at the RNC’s meeting next week in Wisconsin.
At the state party meeting, Weston County committeeman Mick Bohn invited party members to attend an election summit on Wednesday hosted by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, a prominent national election fraud theorist.
Bohn, like Lindell, says America’s elections aren’t secure and that the 2020 election was fraudulent despite dozens of court decisions and investigations saying otherwise.
Lindell was at a rally hosted by Trump in Casper in May 2022 and while there told Cowboy State Daily that Wyoming elections were fraudulent and if you don’t agree with that, “you’re a traitor.”
Jones said a Wyoming-based political action committee is being planned that will address election integrity issues. For every person who uses the referral code “WYELECTIONINTEGRITY” to register for the event, Lindell will donate 50 cents to the group.
Patricia Junek, a Gillette resident who ran for Senate District 23 in 2022, is spearheading some of the efforts for this planned PAC and will attend and present Wyoming election information at Lindell’s event in person in Missouri.
“We know the hardcore conservatives that are on board (with election integrity), but some of the Republicans who say they are conservative are not,” Junek said.
Although Bohn disagrees with Lindell about the integrity of Wyoming elections, he believes the man is “doing his best to bring election integrity to the United States.”
“He has experts, he’s just listening to what they have to say,” Bohn said of Lindell.
Crossover voting, the process of people switching political affiliation to influence another party’s primary, has also been a hot-button topic in Wyoming in recent years.
During the 2023 legislative session, a bill passed into law that makes it illegal to change one’s party affiliation after the candidate filing period opens.
Albany County GOP Chairman Roxie Hensley said she’s skeptical the new law will prevent all crossover voting, but is “hoping it will make some changes.”
“Is it fair that Democrats can pick our (Republican) candidates?” Hensley questioned.
Shortly after the bill became law, Secretary of State Chuck Gray said there were concerns raised about the constitutionality of some of its aspects, including a perception that it may prevent new voters from registering.
A new Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee bill has been brought this summer to try and clean up some of the language in the law and erase any concerns about constitutionality.
Through this process, Gray said Saturday that a new draft bill was recently released that re-opens a loophole for crossover voting opportunities. Although he said that “the empire always strikes back,” Gray also stressed that he doesn’t know if this change was made to provide a loophole and he is not on “DEFCON 1 yet.”
“All you would have to do is show up on the day of the election, cancel your registration, and then re-register if this bill were allowed to be passed as drafted,” he said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.