Presidential Elections Would Be Exempt From Wyoming 30-Day Residency Voting Law

A legislative committee advanced a bill Thursday that would require people to live in Wyoming 30 days before they could vote in state elections. Presidential races would be exempt.

LW
Leo Wolfson

October 26, 20234 min read

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CHEYENNE — A bill requiring voters to be residents of Wyoming for at least 30 days before an election will advance to the 2024 legislative session. 

The Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee passed the bill Thursday, but with a significant amendment that residents new to Wyoming can’t be prevented from voting in presidential election races because of the 30-day requirement.

State Sen. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, sponsored the amendment and told Cowboy State Daily he wants to ensure people are given the right to vote in presidential elections.

“Why wouldn’t we make that clear that people can participate in federal elections?” he said. “I don’t want to fence people out.”

The amendment, which passed on a 6-5 vote, is important because it will require Wyoming county clerks to create new ballots for new residents who have been in the state less than 30 days, but still want to vote in a presidential race. Barlow’s amendment would not apply to state-level and local elections.

Secretary of State Chuck Gray spoke against the change, saying it either defeats the intent of the bill or makes it impossible to regulate. 

“If you try to have it where they can vote in that situation, then you have to have two ballots, which makes it almost impossible to administer,” he said.

Malcolm Ervin, president of the Wyoming County Clerks Association, told Cowboy State Daily it would actually be easy for the clerks to create a new ballot as they already have many versions.

Currently, people registering to vote in Wyoming are given a ballot no matter how long they’ve been in the state as there are no durational, or residency, voting requirements in the Cowboy State.

Gray wants to prevent people who have very recently arrived in Wyoming from being able to to influence the state’s elections. 

Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray talks with the Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Thursday in support of a bill that would require people live in Wyoming at least 30 days to be eligible to vote in state elections.
Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray talks with the Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Thursday in support of a bill that would require people live in Wyoming at least 30 days to be eligible to vote in state elections. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)

In-State V. Out-Of-State?

Federal law states that new voters who are not eligible in the state who have moved within 30 days of a presidential election are entitled to vote in the state where they came from. More than 25 states have some form of residency requirement to vote. This law does not apply to any lower elections.

Corporations Committee Chairmen Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander and Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, said a loophole could exist for a voter who loses residency in a former state by becoming a Wyoming resident within less than 30 days of moving to the Cowboy State, but Gray stressed that wouldn’t happen.

Under Wyoming law, voters are entitled to vote in all of the state’s elections if they move to another state and are not allowed to vote there yet.

Is It Needed?

The bill passed with an 11-2 vote, with Case and Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, voting against. 

Case expressed doubt that there would be enough fraud in Wyoming to turn the state’s three electoral votes to a Democratic candidate because of the state’s overwhelming Republican majority. 

“That is a pretty big fraud. It would take hundreds of thousands of votes of fraud to change that election,” he said. “What’s the harm if we grant latitude to this?”

Yin told Cowboy State Daily that he doesn’t believe the bill will improve Wyoming elections. 

“I believe it will be mostly an administrative and regulatory burden and get in the way of people voting,” Yin said.

In his home of Teton County, there are many transient, part-time residents who could be affected by the proposed legislation. Yin downplayed his local connection to the bill and said new residents are moving to Wyoming statewide.

“We don’t need to restrict residents from voting with additional voting requirements,” he said.

Gray has been one of the most vocal supporters of the push to establish a residency requirement in Wyoming. He told the committee he would support an even stricter requirement of more than 30 days, but isn’t sure it would be constitutional. 

“We need to help ensure election integrity by making sure Wyomingites and only Wyomingites are voting in our elections,” Gray said.

The 30-day residency requirement would be based on a sworn oath and voters would not be required to provide any proof of when exactly they moved to the state.

State Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, was one of two "no" votes to requiring people live in Wyoming at least 30 days to be eligible to vote in state elections.
State Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, was one of two "no" votes to requiring people live in Wyoming at least 30 days to be eligible to vote in state elections. (Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily)

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter