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Wyoming GOP Passes Resolution To Support Runoff Elections

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Republican Party passed a resolution over the weekend supporting runoff elections, although the Wyoming Legislature killed a bill earlier this year that would have established just such a system.

The resolution the organization passed during its State Central Committee meeting in Buffalo over the weekend called for a runoff election to be held if no candidate in an election receives a majority of the votes cast.

In races with three or more candidates, it is possible for a candidate to win even though he or she might win less than 50% of the votes cast.

“Whereas, in plurality election outcomes, when more than two candidates are running for the same office, may not be representative of a simple majority of the electorate and consequently, lack of the mandate of the people,” the resolution said.

A bill that would have called for a runoff election to be held between the leading two candidates in a race if no candidate received a majority of the votes cast in the primary election died in the Legislature during the spring session.

Senate File 145 was narrowly defeated in its third reading in the Senate on a vote of 14-15.

Former President Donald Trump said in July that Wyoming should have a runoff election to get U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney out of office.

In a statement, Trump said that Wyoming voters want a clear majority winner in the Republican primary for the state’s lone U.S. House seat and the only mechanism that accomplishes this is a runoff election, “pitting the top two candidates against each other.”

“Conservative Republicans in the Wyoming State Legislature like Senator Bo Biteman and Representative Chip Nieman led this effort. Unfortunately and sadly for Wyoming voters, RINO State Legislators stood in the way, defeating the Run-Off Election bills,” Trump.

Earlier this year, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. voiced his support for run-off elections in the state as well.

The younger Trump framed his argument in support of the bill as opposition to Cheney, one of a handful of Republicans in the U.S. House to vote for the impeachment of the former president.

“The easiest way to defeat Deplorable Liz Cheney is by having only ONE Conservative candidate run and WIN! Wyoming Patriots will no longer stand for Nancy Pelosi and her new lapdog RINO Liz Cheney!” the elder Trump said in July.

Cheney handily won both the primary and general elections in 2020. In her first bid for Congress in 2016, she won almost 40% of the votes cast in the Republican primary, but not a majority of all votes cast.

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County Clerks In Wyoming Hear Increased Questions About Election Integrity

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By Wendy Corr, Ellen Fike and Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Following the questions about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, county clerks in Wyoming have seen an uptick from people who are concerned with the election process.

Deputy clerk for Park County Hans Odde told Cowboy State Daily he is confident that elections in Wyoming are airtight, but there are still those who question it.

“We have had people who’ve come in and registered to vote, and a large number of them who come in from other states or communities have questions about how we run our elections,” Odde said.

“We have a fair number of folks who want to know what kind of election equipment we have, are we using Dominion products? Or do we use electronic tabulators or paper ballots? It runs run the gamut of all of the election conspiracy theories, it really does,” he said.

But Odde said that many who have moved to the area have heard good things about Wyoming’s elections.

“They’re pleased to hear that we are now taking or requesting an ID be shown at the polling location when they go to vote,” he said.

But for those who continue to have questions, Odde said there’s only so much he can only do to reassure them.

“I try and give them the confidence that hey, you’re talking to the people right here in front of you that run your election,” he said. “You can look me in the eye, you can come in and you can view our process.”

Odde said that many voters are concerned that illegal votes are being cast via absentee ballot.

“I assure them that no ballot gets mailed in Wyoming without the voter requesting a ballot,” he said. “They’re worried about illegal aliens voting, they’re worried about the theories out there that have been espoused on social media, and some on mainstream media.”

And although it’s been over a year since the last election, Odde said that the questions are still coming in.

“Election Wasn’t Stolen”

“I just had folks come in on Monday, saying, ‘We’ve got to get registered and we’ve got to vote because we don’t want this next election to be stolen.’” Odde said they seemed shocked when he says with certainty that President Biden won the election fairly.

“I’ve been to national conferences with election officials from all over this country,” he said. “And I’ve never met anyone who was involved in elections that wanted to move votes so that one candidate or another would win. I don’t see how an election official could move that many ballots without it being obvious, like a shining beacon in the night.”

Odde expressed his highest faith in the staff at the Park County Clerk’s office, as well as the Secretary of State’s Office.

“Our Secretary of State is very, very committed to cybersecurity, and making sure that our systems are not connected to the internet in any way,” he said, addressing the concern that someone could tap into the electronic voting system and change the outcome.

“I’m very proud of what we do,” he said. “And I’m very confident in what we do. I think Wyoming is extremely secure. County clerks are working with the secretary of state right now, to develop stronger rules to govern our post-election audit. We do a pre-election audit, and we do a post-election audit, and those are both required by. And we continue to try and make them stronger and more applicable to the times we’re in.”

Natrona County

Natrona County voters also had questions about the type of voting machines used, according to Natrona County Clerk Tracy Good. Mostly these questions surrounded the type of machines and software used and whether or not they were Dominion systems.

“Some constituents wanted to know what procedures we follow and how we know ballots are being read right,” she said.

Good explained that their 46 voting machines, one per precinct, were Election Systems and Software (ES&S) machines that were purchased by the state in 2019 for all Wyoming counties. Unlike other systems, the ES&S systems do not have modems or any ability to connect to the internet.

In a release from Wyoming Secretary of State announcing the purchase of the new voting equipment, Secretary of State Edward Buchanan referred to them as the “most secure and up-to-date voting equipment on the market.

Good confirmed the accuracy of the machines and said they perform quality control tests before all elections to make sure that ballots are being read correctly and from the appropriate precincts, including the special election yesterday that she said went well.

Other than those questions, Good said there haven’t been any requests for tours or personal visits to inquire about the process.

Laramie County

Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee said that other than an increase in public records requests for 2020 election results, there had not been many questions about election integrity this year during the special election. 

“It’s an off year, so we didn’t have many questions,” she said. “However, I have seen more people asking about the election process. where their ballots go, things like that. I think that’s great, we want more people involved with the voting process.” 

She did note that her office did have some questions about their voting machines, which are also Elections Systems and Software equipment.

Lee recommended that anyone interested in the voting machines can come to the public test of the equipment, which is always done prior to the start of early voting. The information for the public test is always publicized through the county clerk’s website. 

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Federal Judge Rules Wyoming Election Day Campaign Limits Unconstitutional

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming law prohibiting campaign activities within 300 feet of a polling place on election days is unconstitutional because the “buffer zone” is unreasonably large, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal, in a July 22 order, ruled in support of arguments that the law banning “electioneering” within 100 yards of a polling place is an unreasonable restriction on First Amendment rights to free speech.

“(The state and county) did not meet their burden to demonstrate that the statute’s 100-yard electioneering buffer zone is ‘reasonable and does not significantly impinge on constitutionally protected rights,’” Freudenthal’s order said.

Freudenthal also overturned a portion of the state law placing restrictions on bumper stickers placed on cars within 100 yards of polling places, but upheld the state’s ban on electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place during the state’s absentee voting period.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed against the state and Laramie County by John Frank and Grassfire, LLC. Frank said he wanted to display and share campaign signs, literature, bumper stickers and other materials within 100 yards of the polling place at Laramie County Community College.

Grassfire, a political consulting company, said it wanted to gather signatures on petitions within 100 feet of the Laramie County Governmental Complex during absentee voting and the 100-foot barrier in effect during those periods would prevent the company from working on the sidewalk surrounding the building.

Neither Frank nor Grassfire have taken part in electioneering activities at either location in the past.

State law prohibits activities such as displaying campaign signs, distributing campaign literature or soliciting signatures from people within 100 yards of a polling place during election days and within 100 feet of polling places when absentee votes are being cast. It allows the display of bumper stickers within those areas, but places size restrictions on the bumper stickers and allows the car carrying the stockers to be parked in the area only as long as is required for its driver to vote.

Frank and Grassfire argued the 300-foot buffer zone on election days is unreasonably large and  interferes with rights to free speech.

Freudenthal cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld similar restrictions within a 100-foot area surrounding a polling place, but agreed that 100 yards is too large.

“(The state and county) have presented no argument — and offered no evidence — to explain why the statute requires an electioneering buffer zone much larger than the regulation upheld (by the U.S. Supreme Court),” the order said.

The Legislature set the buffer zone during absentee voting at 100 feet, Freudenthal said.

“The record is silent as to why a different zone was selected by the Legislature for this period given that the state concedes its interests are no different,” she wrote. 

Freudenthal also said there was no evidence to prove that bumper stickers should be considered part of “electioneering” efforts.

“The purpose of regulating electioneering is delineated by a state’s interest in preventing voter intimidation and election fraud,” she wrote. “Here, the court cannot see how bumper stickers on vehicles could lead to voter intimidation or election fraud.”

However, the 100-foot buffer zone for absentee voting periods is a reasonable restriction, Freudenthal ruled.

“… (No) specific arguments were presented to the court as to why the state’s interest in protecting absentee voters from confusion and undue influence should be any less than it is for election-day voters,” the opinion said.

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Gray, Bouchard Celebrate Gordon Signing Voter ID Bill Into Law

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two legislators are celebrating Gov. Mark Gordon’s recent signing of a bill that will require Wyoming voters to present some type of identification when voting in person.

On Tuesday, Gordon signed House Bill 75 into law, which will require a person to present “acceptable” identification when going to vote in person.

“Today’s signing of my Voter ID legislation is a victory for the citizens of Wyoming,” bill sponsor Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, said on Tuesday. “It is a necessary function of our Republic to provide our citizens with confidence that our elections are secure, fair, and valid. I am proud that we were able to meet this important milestone for Wyoming.”

This bill was a priority for Gray since he has been elected to office in 2016 and has been a law that Wyoming legislators have been working on for nearly 20 years.

Wyoming currently requires identification to register to vote, but not when actually voting in person. The law would not apply for absentee voting.

The law will take effect beginning July 1.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, also touted the bill being signed into law.

“Governor Gordon has just signed into law the photo ID bill I sponsored along with my conservative colleagues in the Senate,” Bouchard said. “So which #woke corporation will attack our state next?”

The bill was amended to allow elderly voters to use a Medicare card as a form of suitable identification, since many of them do not use a photo ID.

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan testified in support of the bill last week during a Senate committee meeting, telling the the legislators how much work his office had done to help write the bill.

“You really have every available type of identification to be used in this case, so no one has to feel like there’s an ID they can’t get,” he said. “One of the important things I emphasized early on this was in no way disenfranchising any voters.”

Buchanan did say there have only been three or four instances of voter fraud in the state over the last couple decades, “but it does occur.”

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Voter ID Bill Headed to Wyoming Senate for Debates

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A bill requiring people to present some type of identification when voting in person is heading to the floor of the Senate for debate this week.

House Bill 75 would require a person to present “acceptable” identification when going to vote in person. The Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions approved the bill on a vote of 4-1 Tuesday, with only Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, voting “no.”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, the bill’s sponsor, told Senate colleagues during his testimony that the bill would be critical for Wyoming’s elections.

“Voter ID is a step in keeping our election statues tight, and ensuring there’s an environment where it is difficult to commit fraud, it’s a best practices issue,” he said. “This bill will ensure confidence in our elections.”

Wyoming currently requires identification to register to vote, but not when actually voting in person. This bill would not apply for absentee voting.

Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, cracked a joke during the meeting, asking Gray if he would consider amending the bill to include fishing licenses, a joke referencing to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who Gray plans to challenge in her bid for re-election.

Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, asked Gray what would happen in the event someone’s ID is stolen prior to voting, to which the representative responded an old ID or a temporary, paper one would suffice.

Scott expressed his concern about the bill, noting not everyone has multiple types of ID and adding a voter could be in a bad spot if the ID is lost before voting.

However, Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Towers, interjected, saying identity could still be verified through voting registration records, since an ID is required to register.

“When you live in the backwoods like I do, all the polling people know you,” Driskill said to Gray. “Is there a thought you could be allowed to cast your ballot because you know the polling people? I know mine, we have coffee together.”

Gray said there were some equal protection concerns regarding visual verification of a person’s identity, which is why that situation hadn’t been addressed in the bill.

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan testified in support of the bill, telling the committee how much work his office had done to help write the legislation.

“You really have every available type of identification to be used in this case, so no one has to feel like there’s an ID they can’t get,” he said. “One of the important things I emphasized early on this was in no way disenfranchising any voters.”

Buchanan did say there have only been three or four instances of voter fraud in the state over the last couple decades, “but it does occur.”

Driskill added no one voluntarily announces they cheated the system, they just do it again.

Nethercott mentioned that as a sitting senator, she was once rejected from a polling place in Laramie County because she did not have her ID.

Tom Lacock, spokesman for AARP, supported amending the bill to allow Medicare IDs to be used as acceptable identification for voting, as many elderly people have no need for photo IDs any longer.

Some of the organizations opposed to the bill included the League of the Women Voters and the Equality State Policy Center.

Marguerite Herman, representing the LWV, said Wyoming simply does not need such a requirement for its voters.

“The only accomplishment of HB75 is to create a hoop for the voters and poll workers to jump through on election day with no corresponding benefit,” she said. “Our voter registration system is solid. Our elections are secure. Wyoming should have no patience for such an expenditure of time, effort and other resources.”

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Wyoming’s Voter Registration Numbers Dip By More Than 20K

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s voter registration numbers have dipped by more than 20,000 over the last two months, but a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said there’s no cause for alarm.

As of Jan. 1, Wyoming has 302,963 registered voters, but as of Monday, the state only had 279,864, a drop of 23,099 voters.

However, there hasn’t been a mass exodus of voters from the state. Instead, it is the result of a cleaning up of the state’s files.

“Wyoming is required by law to remove, or purge, voters after every general election,” Secretary of State’s office spokeswoman Monique Meese told Cowboy State Daily. “The voters being purged are those who did not vote in the last general election and did not respond to a statutorily required notice asking if they wanted to remain a registered voter.”

Wyoming’s 23 counties are required to notify the secretary of state’s office by Feb. 15 of the year following the November election of voters who did not cast ballots.

“While it is speculation on my part – I would suspect that is the reason for the decrease,” Meese said.

In February, there were 294,113 registered voters, down more than 8,000 than the month prior.

According to the secretary of state’s voter statistics, the breakdown of registered voters in Wyoming as of Monday looked like: 195,592 Republicans, 46,307 Democrats, 2,548 Libertarians, 696 Constitution Party, 34,682 unaffiliated and 39 “other,” which includes individuals registered in parties that are no longer recognized in Wyoming.

Laramie County saw the highest number of registered voters with 45,337 (with 9,610 Democrats, 28,608 Republicans, 72 Constitution Party, 358 Libertarian, 6,676 unaffiliated and 13 other).

Although there was an overall drop in voters across all parties, a few parties saw an increase in registered voters in certain counties. Albany, Converse, Crook and Hot Springs counties all saw slight upticks in their independent affiliation numbers compared to February.

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More Than 100 Wyoming National Guardsmen to Help With Biden Inauguration

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

More than 100 Wyoming National Guard Soldiers and airmen have volunteered to support crowd control, communications and logistics during the 59th Presidential Inauguration for President-elect Joe Biden in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

“We are proud to support, and be part of, the long tradition of supporting this historical event for our country,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Porter, adjutant general for Wyoming. “When we are requested, we continue to provide our governor and civilian authorities properly manned, trained and equipped forces available wherever and whenever they are needed.”

The 59th Presidential Inauguration, like all presidential inaugurations, is considered a national special security event. The preparation for a NSSE is a cooperative effort among federal, state and district agencies.

The National Guard provides a wide variety of capabilities that can seamlessly integrate with interagency partners to enhance inauguration support capabilities.

Several states are activating to provide timely, safe and proactive support to civilian authorities. While the costs associated with this deployment will be paid for with federal dollars, these National Guard professionals will remain under their respective governor’s control for up to 31 days and adhere to D.C. law.

Military support to inaugurations by Guard members dates back 232 years to when General George Washington began his inaugural journey from Mount Vernon, Vermont to New York City.

Local militias (the modern-day National Guard), joined his inaugural procession as it passed through towns along the route to be joined by members of the regular Army, additional local militia and Revolutionary War veterans once Washington arrived in New York City.

This presidential military escort then accompanied him to Federal Hall for the presidential oath. The National Guard and other military units have continued this tradition of inaugural support ever since.

Additional National Guard Soldiers and airmen will be made available to provide support to Wyoming authorities, should the need arise.

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Wyoming Democratic Party Condemns Attack on U.S. Capitol, Criticizes Lummis

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Democratic Party on Wednesday condemned the attack on the U.S. Capitol building while also criticizing the state’s newest U.S. senator.

Wyoming Democratic Party Chair Joe Barbuto said in a statement that the attack, led by people described as supporters of President Donald Trump who don’t believe he lost November’s presidential election to former Vice President Joe Biden, was the culmination of the last four years of Trump’s presidency.

“These people are not protesters or patriots, they are domestic terrorists who were beckoned by the dog whistle of Trump,” Barbuto said. “The President of the United States is complicit in this violence, as are those who have enabled and defended his actions, conspiracy theories and words over the last four years.”

Barbuto included Wyoming’s congressional delegation as having enabled Trump, primarily newly sworn-in Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who has regularly praised Trump during his presidency, including supporting Trump‘s refusal to concede in the presidential election.

Lummis confirmed recently that she would contest the Electoral College vote confirming Biden as president-elect.

Barbuto criticized Lummis’ choice to contest the Electoral College vote, calling it “disturbing.”

“Her embrace of that rhetoric has only escalated the situation,” he said. “It is a disgrace to democracy, it is a disgrace to our nation and it is a disgrace to Wyoming. Sen. Lummis has no choice but to publicly withdraw her involvement in encouraging the rejection of election results and fulfill her sworn oath and constitutional duties in the peaceful transition of power.”

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Barrasso Calls For End to Storming Of U.S. Capitol

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso joined Wyoming colleague U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Wednesday in criticizing the crowds who invaded the U.S. Capitol as members of Congress prepared to certify the results of Electoral College votes from November’s election.

“This violence and destruction have no place in our republic,” Barrasso wrote in a Twitter post. “It must end now.”

Laura Menglekamp, Barrasso’s spokeswoman, said Barrasso and his staff were safe following the incident that forced the evacuation of the Capitol earlier in the day.

An undetermined number of protesters described as supporters of President Donald Trump breached the Capitol shortly after noon Wyoming time. The incident occurred shortly after Trump hosted a rally to encourage members of Congress to reject the Electoral College’s vote in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.

Barrasso and Lummis were on opposite sides of the Electoral College issue. Lummis joined 10 other Senate Republicans in announcing she would object to certification of the votes until an audit could be conducted of the elections in six states where Trump has alleged voter fraud occurred.

Barrasso, expressing opinions similar to those of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, said he would vote to certify the results because their rejection would mean Congress was selecting the next president rather than the voters.

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Trump Attacks Cheney, “Weak Congresspeople” During Wednesday Rally

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

President Donald Trump singled out U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for scathing criticism during a rally appearance on Wednesday morning.

“The Liz Cheneys of the world. We have to get rid of them,” Trump said during his speech.

In recent days, Cheney has advised fellow Republican not to object to the outcome of the Electoral College vote that gave victory in November’s presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

The comments by Trump came during a rally that took place just hours before many of his supporters stormed the steps of the U.S. Capitol building, forcing evacuation of the building by the legislators inside. Members of Congress were preparing to decide on the certification of the Electoral College’s vote at the time.

During the rally, Trump also told his supporters to get rid of the “weak Congresspeople,” referring to those who didn’t agree with his belief that the presidential election was rigged or that Biden didn’t win fairly.

Trump also claimed that “big tech” rigged the election in Biden’s favor.

“We will never give up, we will never concede,” the president said during the rally. “It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.”

These comments come days after Cheney confirmed that she would vote to certify Biden’s win and also calling Trump’s recent phone call with the Georgia Secretary of State “disturbing.”

“Congress has an important role to play in supporting states as they address election fraud,” she previously said. “Congress does not, however, have the authority to overturn state presidential election results by refusing to count electors and thereby substituting our views for the votes of the people in the states. Doing so would be establishing a tyranny of Congress and stealing power from the states and the people in those states.”

Cheney’s position on certification of the Electoral College vote was shared by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, who said he would vote in favor of certification during the joint session of Congress held Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, however, joined 10 other Senate Republicans in saying she would object to to the Electoral College results until an audit of elections in states where Trump has suggested voter fraud occurred can be completed.

Lummis’ statements on the Electoral College vote won thanks from Trump during the rally.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso confirmed Wednesday morning that he would also certify the Electoral College’s vote.

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