Better Wyoming Group Urged Voters To Register Republican Ahead Of Deadline

Although it claims to be a nonpartisan health advocacy group, Better Wyoming sent out messaging earlier this month encouraging some of its members in some parts of the state to register as Republicans ahead of last week’s deadline.

Leo Wolfson

May 20, 20245 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)

The process of changing one’s party affiliation to impact another party’s primary election has been a controversial practice in Wyoming politics.

Although many dispute how prevalent or not this “crossover voting” is, people on both sides of the political aisle generally agree it’s happening on some level in Wyoming.

Stopping crossover voting was why the Legislature last year eliminated the right to change one’s party affiliation on primary election day. This upcoming primary is the first in at least decades Wyoming voters can’t switch parties at the polls.

Earlier this month, nonpartisan health advocacy group Better Wyoming sent out an email encouraging people in certain parts of the state to register as Republicans ahead of the May 15 deadline to change party affiliation.

A voicemail obtained by Cowboy State Daily also delivered a similar message from the nonprofit organization, mentioning last week’s deadline for declaring party affiliation and how the “Republican primary in your district will be close.”

No mention was made of the option to register as a Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary.

Nate Martin, executive director of Better Wyoming, said the email came from the 501(c)(4) part of his organization, a designation which allows for involvement in political activities.

He also said the email was likely targeted at a region of the state where no Democrats are known to be running.

“In a lot of elections there aren’t any Democrats to vote for,” said Martin, who’s married to state Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie. “This specific email was probably going into a specific district where there’s not a Democrat.”

Although Better Wyoming has Republican supporters, it’s usually perceived as more of a progressive-leaning organization because of its support for Medicaid expansion and marijuana decriminalization.

The group also opposes school vouchers and wants to increase teacher pay. It even has a Democratic state legislator serving on its board, Rep. Liz Storer, D-Jackson.

'Explicitly Nonpartisan'

Martin said any left-leaning perception of his group, which he says is “explicitly nonpartisan," is not accurate. He also mentioned how the group has supported Republican-sponsored bills in the past and solely chooses what issues to pursue based on residents’ feedback.

“It might be to Democrat’s chagrin that Better Wyoming is not (left leaning),” Martin said. “We’re an issue-based, nonpartisan organization and we work on behalf of issues that provide concrete benefits to people’s lives.”

He also referenced a 2021 survey from the American Cancer Society showing that 66% of Wyoming residents and 58% of Wyoming Republicans support Medicaid expansion.

Martin said the bulk of the group’s efforts thus far this election season had to do with informing people about the new May 15 deadline to change party affiliation, which he said Secretary of State Chuck Gray’s office did “a poor job” of letting the public know about. Voter advocacy group Equality State Policy Center made a similar effort on this front.

As nonpartisan that may seem on the surface, most of the documented crossover voting in the recent past in Wyoming has been from Democrats or Independent voters switching party affiliation to Republican. Since so few people have been running as Democrats in Wyoming elections in recent years, the main motivation for crossover voting would be to influence a Republican primary.

“We have a goal of encouraging people to participate in elections,” Martin said. “You can’t participate in elections when there’s no candidates or there’s no candidates that have any chance of winning.”

Need More People

These messages ran somewhat contrary to calls put out by the Wyoming Democratic Party around the same time.

Earlier this month, the Wyoming Democratic Party made a post where it spoke against crossover voting and what it describes as a common motivation to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”

“How can we build a strong Democratic Party and elect more Democrats if all the Democrats are registered as Republicans?” the post questioned. “The best way to change this state for the better is to have a vibrant two-party system.”

The party argues that expending any energy toward Republican candidates is energy that could have gone to Democratic candidates instead. It mentions the difficulty of recruiting Democratic candidates for elections when prospective candidates see the imbalance of party registration numbers in their district. Currently, about one in 10 Wyoming voters is registered Democrat.

“It is extremely disheartening for the amazing folks who bravely step forward and run as Democrats in the reddest state in the nation to feel like they end up fighting not only their opponent but for the attention of folks in their own party as well,” the post reads.

It also referenced the 2022 Republican primary between former congresswoman Liz Cheney and U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman and 2018 gubernatorial race where Gov. Mark Gordon was elected, Republican primaries where the Democratic Party estimates 20% of its voters took part in. Although a mass influx of crossover voters were expected to influence the 2022 congressional race on some level, it didn’t as Hageman beat Cheney by a large margin.

“The bottom line is, switching parties doesn’t help them, but it absolutely does hurt us,” the post said.

Democratic Party Chair Joe Barbuto continued with this sentiment last week, sending out a letter encouraging members of his party to run for public office as Democrats.

The Facebook post also mentions how the more registered Republicans a county has, the more money its county GOP owes to the state GOP.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter