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Early voting still popular in Wyoming despite pushback from far right

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Casper votes

Poll workers help voters during the Nov. 8 election at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds in Casper. Early voting remains popular in the state, a new study by the University of Wyoming found. 

Despite pushback from the right against early voting, the practice remains popular in Wyoming, a new University of Wyoming survey found.

According to Jim King, a political science professor at the university and the survey’s director, fewer people voted early this year (about 40%) compared to 2020 (about 48%). That’s still more than in 2018, when just 31% of voters cast their ballots early.

The COVID-19 pandemic likely explains why early voting became so much more popular in 2020. King suspects many people who voted early in 2020 might have opted to so again for convenience, the University of Wyoming said in a Thursday news release about the survey.

The university’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center spoke to 524 Wyoming residents before and after the election for the study.

Respondents, who were selected at random, were interviewed once in October and a week after the general. The study had a margin of error (one metric that speaks to the accuracy of the results) of 4.3%.

In keeping with national trends, early voting was more common among Democrats than among Republicans and independents, the study found.

Older citizens also voted early more often than younger citizens. Roughly 52% of Wyomingites aged 55 or older chose to vote by mail or at an early voting location, while 77% of voters aged 54 or younger voted in person for the general election, according to the study.

Wyoming politicians on the far right have been increasingly critical of absentee and mail-in voting in recent years.

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Nearly two years ago, the Wyoming Republican Party called on the statehouse and the secretary of state to set stricter limits on who can vote absentee, and to ban mail-in voting altogether, the Star-Tribune reported at the time.

Wyoming GOP pushes strict limits on absentee balloting

Several candidates in this year’s general were vocal opponents of ballot drop boxes, including Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who won the election for secretary of state.

Karl Allred, who’s serving as interim secretary of state until Gray takes over in January, asked Wyoming county clerks to get rid of their drop boxes ahead of the November election. Allred was appointed to the position by Gov. Mark Gordon in September after former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan left the post to become a judge in Goshen County.

Early voting wasn’t the only topic University of Wyoming surveyors looked at in the study. They also asked respondents about Wyoming’s new voter ID law.

The law, which went into effect in July of last year, requires Wyoming voters to show valid ID when voting in person.

The survey found that 92% of respondents approved of the voter identification law before the election.

When interviewed after the election, most respondents said the new law didn’t impact their voting experience much. Only one person told the university that complying with the law was “not too difficult,” with the rest responding that it was “not difficult at all.”

That’s likely because Wyoming’s voter ID law accepts more forms of identification compared to similar regulations in other states, the university said.

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