Jonathan Lange: Wyoming Voters Deserve Better Than The Circus In Cheyenne

Columnist Jonathan Lange writes, "The real issue here is that Cheyenne mayoral candidate Vic Miller (the AI candidate) wants to appear on the ballot under a pseudonym. As a result, the state of Wyoming has become a national joke."

Jonathan Lange

June 21, 20244 min read

Jonathan lange
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Recent headlines announced, “Wyoming’s First AI Candidate Running for Mayor.” The next day, Wyoming’s Secretary of State, Chuck Gray, sent a letter to Cheyenne’s City Clerk explaining: ”Wyoming law is clear that an AI bot cannot run for office.” From there the story went national.

The man behind the stunt, Victor Miller, attacked the secretary of state as a “hack trying to bully a candidate out of a local thing.” And Kristina Jones, the Cheyenne City Clerk who originally certified Miller’s campaign filing, sent a defiant letter that rejected the SOS’s guidance.

Jones did not contest Gray’s conclusion “that an AI bot cannot run for office.” She argued, instead, that the real candidate is Victor Miller, and that he is eligible to run for mayor.

The sensational headlines about a bot running for mayor have disappeared. Now, they only claim that a “Cheyenne Mayoral Candidate… wants to use AI to make decisions.”

Will the real mayoral candidate please stand up? This shell game hurts my head.

Let’s be clear. This is not about so-called Artificial Intelligence (AI). Politicians have always been free to take the advice of mindless robots. Usually, they do not make it a campaign promise. But at least Miller’s voters know in advance.

The real issue here is that Miller wants to appear on the ballot under a pseudonym. This is nothing new. How many have fantasized about running for office as “Mickey Mouse”? How many jokesters have tried and, rightly, been denied?

In a sane world, Miller would have received equal treatment under the law. The ballot application is straightforward: “Print or type your name exactly as you wish it to appear on the ballot.”

A name, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is a “word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others.” If Victor Miller wants to run for mayor, more power to him. He is “designated and distinguished from others” by the words, “Victor Miller.”

If those words might confuse a voter, some states allow for a parenthetical nickname to be added for clarity. Wyoming’s law (22-6-111) says, “A candidate may use the name on the ballot by which he is generally known,” and requires the certifying officer to make a specific determination if any other words are to be added.

But Cheyenne’s city clerk ignored the words, “your name” and substituted the subordinate clause “as you wish it [your name] to appear.” Denying her statutory duty to make a determination, she claimed, “The municipal clerk is not directed to interfere with the candidate’s decision.”

This construal is so broad as to be absurd. Under it, Mr. Miller could file to run for mayor under the name “Patrick Collins” (the incumbent mayor), and the city clerk would be powerless to protect the true Patrick Collins and his voters from the fraud.

That’s the heart of the issue. The people’s right to “open, free and equal” elections (Wyoming Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 27) requires that our election officials be truthful in the printing of ballots.

Voters have the right to know who they are voting for. And the other candidates have the right to an equal and truthful designation on the ballot.

The conduct of elections is the most solemn moment in any constitutional republic. Once every two years the sovereign people of the state of Wyoming deliberately entrust select citizens with governmental power. This is no time for sophomoric word games.

I wish it were only that. But behind this silliness is a deeper philosophy.

Radical philosophers like Jacques Derrida and his acolytes claim that there is no such thing as objective reality. As a result, we are regularly assaulted by ideologues who demand that we call things what they are not.

But that subject is too deep for a short column. Besides, Miller and Jones might not even suspect these metaphysical implications. It is enough to know that normal people everywhere are sick and tired of gas-lighting in the public square.

It is not cute, or edgy, or cutting-edge. It’s false. The people of Wyoming expect better. The people of Wyoming wrote laws to avoid such nonsense. And election officials should respect them.

As it stands, the state of Wyoming has become a national joke. And Wyomingites legitimately wonder if their election officials have become unserious. A little common sense and respect for our secretary of state could have prevented that.

Jonathan Lange is a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastor in Evanston and Kemmerer and serves the Wyoming Pastors Network. Follow his blog at Email:

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Jonathan Lange