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Donald Trump Jr. lobbies for Wyoming election runoff bill

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Donald Trump Jr.

Donald Trump Jr., son of former President Donald Trump, speaks at the Republican National Convention in 2016 in Cleveland. The younger Trump has been lobbying for a bill in Wyoming's Legislature that could change how elections are conducted.

Donald Trump Jr. has selected the Wyoming Legislature as his latest battleground to lobby for election reform — and replacing Rep. Liz Cheney in Congress.

In posts made to Twitter on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, Trump Jr. asked his followers to support a Wyoming bill that would require a runoff election after the primary election if no single candidate wins the majority of votes. He urged his followers to email the committee’s five members.

“The Wyoming Senate is voting on SF145 tomorrow,” Monday night’s tweet stated. “SF145 would enact a runoff system in WY, so candidates need over 50% to win a primary. Liz Cheney allies are working behind the scenes to kill the bill! Contact the Republicans on the committee & tell them to support SF145!”

A source close to Cheney told the Star-Tribune that she has not been in contact with anyone in the Wyoming Legislature on the issue of runoff elections.

Cheney’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol has riled many of his most loyal followers. She was subsequently censured by the Wyoming Republican Party. Two state lawmakers, Rep. Chuck Gray and Sen. Anthony Bouchard, have announced they will challenge her in next year’s Republican primary.

Under Senate File 145, a candidate would have to receive over 50% of the votes to be considered the winner of a primary election.

In crowded primaries, if no candidate receives over half the votes, a runoff election would occur, pitting the two leading candidates against one another.

The drafted bill was briefly introduced on Tuesday morning during a meeting of the Wyoming Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. But the committee session ended before lawmakers could vote on the proposed legislation.

On Tuesday, Trump Jr. followed up with an additional tweet on the bill.

“Any Republican in Wyoming who does Liz Cheney’s bidding and opposes SF145 is turning their back on my father and the entire America First movement,” the post stated. “Support SF145 and lets send Lincoln Project Liz into retirement in 2022!”

Cheney secured her win in 2016 after a nine-way primary. She won about 40% of the vote in that first election.

Gov. Mark Gordon was elected to office with approximately one-third of the Republican vote.

Wyoming wouldn’t be the first state to adopt a runoff election process.

Alabama, South Dakota, Georgia, North Carolina and other states require runoff elections under certain circumstances.

Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, is the sponsor of the bill.

“The bill is to ensure that the winner of the primary election for federal, statewide and the state Legislature, has the support of a majority of voters,” Biteman said on Tuesday. “Runoffs are common in areas of one-party rule, and they are helpful when there is a large pool of candidates. Not only is Wyoming a predominately Republican state, as you know, (it) often has many candidates run for federal and statewide office.”

He said the bill would bolster voter confidence in the state’s election systems.

The Wyoming Republican Party has backed the bill.

“As Wyoming is largely a Republican majority state, the winner of the Primary often goes on to win the General Election,” the party wrote in a statement posted to Facebook last month. “Often there are a number of people running in the Primary, so there have been many occasions when the winner of the Primary receives less than 50% of the vote, sometimes substantially less than 50%, which means that the Primary winner does not necessarily represent the majority’s values.”

Kai Schon, election division director for the Secretary of State, said the office did not have a position on the legislation.

The change would come with a one-time cost of about $166,000 to update the state’s voter registration system, according to the Secretary of State's initial estimates. Schon said the cost for counties to conduct runoff elections would be much higher.

"Based upon the 2020 election, again, the primary election alone, when you take into account the ballot coding, the printing of ballots, ... training of your election workers, or just paying for your election workers, acquiring the facilities to serve as polling places, you’re looking at roughly $1.1 million to conduct that piece of the election," he said.

Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, said he’s received a higher volume of emails about the bill, but wants to look beyond national influence and keep his focus on local issues.

Boner supports the idea of having runoff elections when there’s no clear winner in a primary.

“(It’s important) that we have a better process in our primaries to make sure that the candidate that the party puts forward has the most support from Wyoming Republicans,” Boner said.

Chairman Ogden Driskill, R-Devil’s Tower, said the committee would continue discussing Senate File 145 on Thursday.

Update: This story has been updated to include additional information on the fiscal impacts of Senate File 145 for counties.

Photos: Anti-Cheney protest at the Wyoming Capitol

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Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Camille Erickson covers the state's energy industries. She received her master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Before moving to Casper in 2019, she reported on business and labor in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington.

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