Wyoming Clerk Says She Won’t Certify Elections If Fraud Is Actually Proven

A convicted Jan. 6 participant in Gillette on Saturday implored Wyoming county clerks to not certify election equipment and results they believe are fraudulent. One longtime clerk said they wouldn’t, but fraud has to be proven, not believed.

LW
Leo Wolfson

January 09, 20249 min read

A Laramie County elections staffer directs voters during the 2022 general election in Cheyenne.
A Laramie County elections staffer directs voters during the 2022 general election in Cheyenne. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese said that if fraud can be proven about an election, she won’t certify it. The key factor is proving it.

As another presidential election cycle draws near, there has been continued — and elevated — focus on election integrity at local, state and national levels. That was highlighted in Campbell County on Saturday, when convicted Jan. 6 Capitol riot participant Couy Griffin told an audience in Gillette that local officials should stand up to state and federal officials when it comes to certifying the results of elections they believe are fraudulent.

Freese said she agrees that county clerks need to be vigilant.

“Absolutely, if I knew something was not correct with our election, I would not certify it at the local level,” she said.

But Freese also said this evidence must be based on hard, definitive facts, not on hypotheticals or theories. She also doesn’t agree with voicing official concerns to lay a groundwork for possible future challenges if there isn’t evidence for it.

“I feel like you shouldn’t be able to certify if you think there is something wrong — I mean legitimately wrong, not just people and coming and saying ‘I feel like,’” she said. “It has to work on both sides. If people are thinking something is happening, bring us examples.”

Freese said any member of the public can file an elections-related complaint that will be forwarded to their local law enforcement to investigate. If there is any merit to the complaint, she said her staff will at least investigate it.

Secretary of State Chuck Gray did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his thoughts about Griffin’s remarks.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, co-chair of the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, described Griffin’s comments as “unbelievable and delusional.”

“It’s way, way out there,” he said.

Griffin believes the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and that, “I have faith and trust that one day we will know the truth about what happened in the 2020 election.”

Although he didn’t address Wyoming’s election security specifically Saturday, he expressed solidarity with some in the audience that made claims there was election fraud in Wyoming, a state Trump won by a larger margin than any other in 2020.

Freese said she neither saw nor heard of any evidence of fraud committed in Wyoming during the 2020 election.

Case said he was amazed the Campbell County Republican Party profited from Griffin’s appearance, which was a fundraiser for the local party, and that there was no counter-protest at the event.

“We’ve got to quit tolerating this misinformation,” he said. “It’s just really kind of insane.”

‘Based On My Gut Feeling’

When he was a New Mexico county commissioner, Griffin didn’t have much proof of election fraud beyond certain votes being connected to unoccupied addresses. He still refused to certify his county’s election results, despite Trump winning his county by a large margin.

Griffin claimed that he vowed to certify the election as long as officials would hire a forensic expert to analyze the voting machines, but this request was rejected.

He and the other two commissioners at the time did enlist a subcontractor to review their county’s election, which included a door-to-door canvass of county voters. In the end, the subtractor conceded in a letter to the county that the work had not turned up any conclusive evidence of voter fraud.

Still, Griffin voted again against certifying the results.

"It’s not based on any facts. It’s only based on my gut feeling and my own intuition, and that’s all I need,” he said, according to the New York Times.

Checks And Balances

The state of Wyoming performs post-election audits and tests its voting equipment before each election. Although Freese finds these tests adequate, she believes more could be done to bolster voter confidence in local and state elections.

“We would certainly know if someone was not getting their ballot and suddenly it shows up at our office,” she said. “There’s so many checks and balances Wyoming has.”

Freese said if it can be definitively proven that any kind of fraud or vote discrepancies have taken place, she will immediately call for a new election. Similarly, if any of the vote totals don’t match up to the determined winners and losers of races, she’ll immediately stop the counting process to determine why.

That’s exactly what happened in 2012 when 18 ballots were handed out to the wrong voters, which led to her staff initiating a new county commissioner election for a particular district because the margin of victory in that race was decided by nine votes. After the second election was held, a new winner was chosen.

“We have had those issues,” she said. “We do have remedies. We have used them.”

Freese also believes there is a misconception from some that fraud is slipping in under the nose of county clerks. She said there are numerous safeguards in place to ensure that everyone who casts ballots, whether in-person or absentee, are getting their votes properly counted.

“That’s what we go on is what we know and what we test,” she said. “If we saw something out of the ordinary, we would stop and say, ‘Something is not right here, let’s go and check out why.’”

During her 45 years working elections, the closest Freese has come to this situation was an elderly couple who came to vote in person that had forgotten they already cast absentee ballots.

But if fraud can’t be proven, Freese said she isn’t going to halt certifying an election.

“Of course, if I see anything wrong that says to me absolute fraud, not just ‘I think this happened,’ I want to know for sure,” Freese said.

In Wyoming, local county canvassing boards are made up by the county clerk, and two electors from two different political parties, most often a Democrat and Republican, to certify their local election results. During her 30 years as county clerk, Freese said she’s never seen an election where there wasn’t a unanimous certification of her county’s election results, but did say there have been some split votes on individual write-in ballots.

Because of election security concerns brought up in Fremont County in 2022, the county spent $10,000 outsourcing the coding of its election ballots.

Despite almost universally disproven and rejected in court, Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was rigged are still supported by many Republicans.

On Monday, Freese was in Washington, D.C., with Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee for an elections conference. She said the spreading of misinformation and disinformation about elections is still prevalent throughout America.

An encouraging note however, is that Wyoming is one of the leading states for election security, she said.

“We are leaders in some of the areas where other states are still working on things,” she said.

Fact Checking Griffin

Griffin also said he never purposely entered restricted areas during the Jan. 6 event, but he would have had to move past barriers and over walls to gain access to where he was during the riot.

Many people view Jan. 6 as an attack on American democracy, an event where people died and 138 police officers were hurt, substantiated by thousands of hours of video evidence related to the event.

Conversely, there were hundreds of thousands of people who attended the Capitol that day and never got close to the Capitol building.

Case said it’s important not to “whitewash” Jan. 6 despite its political divisiveness.

“I don’t doubt that some people had peaceful experiences and maybe had totally peaceful intentions,” Case said. “But violence happened. The purpose was to decertify the election or have an alternate outcome for the election. That’s election interference.”

During his speech in Gillette on Saturday, Griffin painted a picture of Jan. 6 being a positive event in American history.

“I’m glad that I can leave that legacy for my son and my family,” he said. “I traveled there, I stood for integrity. I didn’t go on my own, I didn’t go for me, I went for my country.”

But according to his charging affidavit, in a video he posted shortly after Jan. 6, Griffin took a more hostile tone.

“We could have a Second Amendment rally on those same steps that we had that rally yesterday,” he said. “You know, and if we do, then it’s gonna be a sad day, because there’s gonna be blood running out of that building. But at the end of the day, you mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Donald J. Trump if it boils down to it.”

He also accused the FBI of orchestrating Jan. 6, a claim that has never been proven.

Griffin claimed there were no plans to take over the government Jan. 6, but it has been proven that the far-right nationalist group Proud Boys’ strategic plan was to take over buildings in the Capitol complex that day.

Griffin also said county sheriffs can disregard state and federal agencies that they believe are enforcing unconstitutional laws.

Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozak said this is mostly true, but added this power is extended to any law enforcement officer, as he said no officer has the right to uphold unconstitutional laws.

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

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter