Chuck Gray Spars With Clerk Over $132K In Election Equipment Before Last-Minute OK

It took months of arguing back and forth with Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray, but Laramie County will get $132,650 in new election equipment after Gray had a last-minute change of heart and reversed his initial denial.

Leo Wolfson

June 28, 20246 min read

Long lines at a polling place in Cheyenne during the 2022 general election.
Long lines at a polling place in Cheyenne during the 2022 general election. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Laramie County will get some new election equipment this year, but it didn’t come without some initial pushback from Secretary of State Chuck Gray and a last-minute about-face.

Gray decided earlier this month to grant the county’s request for 25 voting machines and four polling place scanners and tabulators after previously rejecting the roughly $132,650 request. Although Wyoming’s 23 counties are responsible for running elections, the state can provide money for new election equipment.

The money will come out of the state’s Election Readiness Account, which had a balance of about $8.1 million near the end of last year.

Gray had initially argued that granting Laramie County’s request, which would’ve taken about 1.6% of the equipment fund, would be inconsistent with his office’s goal of achieving uniformity across the state’s counties.

Laramie County plans to increase the number of machines offered at most of its polling places and supplement its vote scanners and tabulators at the county courthouse in Cheyenne. It will also add new locations for early voting.

Gray told Cowboy State Daily on Friday he’s been disappointed with Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee’s opposition to his office’s “common-sense election integrity efforts” that include rules to prevent non-American citizens and banning ballot drop boxes.

“She has also consistently opposed our attempts to move towards a hand audit of the election,” he said.

Gray had argued in his denial letter to Lee that Laramie’s population growth wasn’t enough to warrant more voting equipment.

Lee responded that Gray’s denial was disappointing and concerning.

“This unprecedented denial of our request for a small amount of additional equipment to meet the needs of our voting population is disheartening, perplexing and unfortunate for the people of the state’s largest county,” Lee wrote to Gray after the initial denial. “That it occurs less than six months before our voters head to the polls in presidential elections is even more troubling.”

The Secretary of State’s Office formally reversed course and accepted the request last week “In light of the additional points” Lee raised in complaining about the denial.

The approval happened after the Laramie County Commission had scheduled an agenda item to discuss whether the county would have to pay for the request itself.

Population Spike

Lee said she requested the machines to compensate for population growth and long lines at the polls. In 2022, she said there were long lines at the county’s most popular voting locations.

“The quality of life here, additional employment opportunities and the opportunity to work remotely are attracting new residents on a daily basis,” Lee wrote in her initial Feb. 23 request to Gray.

Lee also mentioned how there were nearly 500 new voters in 2023. As of late February, there were already 123 new voters in the new year. Lee said the majority of these were recent newcomers to Wyoming.

But compared to years past, this year’s registration numbers in Laramie County are actually down. As of June 1, there were 33,867 registered voters in Laramie County. This is down from June 1, 2022, when there were 45,361, and June 1, 2020, when there were 35,249.

The overall population growth in Laramie County has also been relatively modest, increasing by 0.5% from 2020-2023 and 0.2% from 2022-2023. The average state growth from 2020-2023 was 1.2%.

During the 2020 presidential election, Wyoming saw a historic number of voters cast ballots at the polls and through absentee ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee said she expects an equally large turnout for 2024, but with more in-person and less absentee voting.


Lee didn’t make her original request until February, which Gray also criticized to Cowboy State Daily.

On March 8, Deputy Secretary of State Jesse Naiman met with Lee to discuss the request, then Gray rejected it April 30.

“While I share your goal of conducting safe, secure and accurate elections, I do not believe your request warrants disbursement from the Election Readiness Account, and I would advise you seek these funds at the county level through the normal county budgeting process,” he wrote to Lee.

Lee responded about a week later, questioning Gray’s election expertise.

“With all due respect and fairness, you have never conducted an election, nor have you been in a position to know firsthand how elections are conducted,” she wrote to Gray in May.

Gray had mentioned how other counties around the state have experienced higher population growth than Laramie County and didn’t make similar requests.

Lincoln and Crook counties had population growth higher than 5%, although both have a substantially smaller population than Laramie County.

“While Laramie County may not have seen the percentage growth smaller counties experienced, as was reported by the Wyoming Division of Economic Analysis, we have a significantly higher population base, which equates to more residents and voters who must be accommodated,” Lee wrote in her letter.

By sheer numbers, Laramie saw 472 new residents move to the county, which was the seventh largest growth in the state during that time period. Lincoln grew by 1,298 while Crook increased by 416. The county with the largest growth by raw number was Sheridan, which saw 1,602 new residents.

Election Day General Photos 11 8 22 13
(Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Managing The Lines

Lincoln County Clerk April Brunski said her county hasn’t seen a substantial increase in the length of lines at its eight polling locations despite having the largest population growth rate in the state at 6.6%. Brunski said they don’t plan to ask for any new voting machines.

“We have no concerns,” she said, adding Lincoln County has been assisted by two large event centers in the community.

Crook County Clerk Melissa Jones similarly said her county doesn’t need more election equipment.

In Fremont County, Clerk Julie Freese said the main reason there were long lines in her county during the 2022 primary election was because an electronic pollbook system temporarily shut down. Fremont got new equipment somewhat recently and doesn’t plan to request any new equipment even though the county grew by 1.5% from 2020-2023.

What her county offers that helps mitigate long lines, she said, are eight voting centers that allow people to vote wherever they want in the county.

“It’s useful for people who live in the area but work somewhere else,” Freese said. “People are really starting to get used to it, they really like it.”


Gray said no county other than Laramie County has requested new election equipment this year and that the purpose of the Election Readiness Account is to establish a uniform system of election equipment throughout the state.

Lee said that was the exact purpose of her request as it was for the same equipment already used elsewhere. She also said since the creation of the special account in 2019, no request had ever been denied.

“This creates the very situation the Election Readiness Account was designed to fix — a patchwork across the state of different vendors,” she wrote to Gray.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter