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Donald Trump backs legislation to end crossover voting in Wyoming

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Donald Trump

Then-President Donald Trump listens in 2017 as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaks at the Treasury Department in Washington.

Former President Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed the latest legislative effort to end crossover voting in Wyoming.

The endorsement came shortly before Senate File 97, sponsored by Ranchester Republican Sen. Bo Biteman, narrowly passed a Senate introduction vote.

The bill would end same-day party affiliation change in Wyoming to prevent Democrats from voting in Republican primaries. (The practice is commonly known as crossover voting.) If enacted, changes in voter affiliation would not be allowed in roughly the three months prior to a primary.

“This critically important bill ensures that the voters in each party will separately choose their nominees for the General Election, which is how it should be! It makes total sense that only Democrats vote in the Democrat primary and only Republicans vote in the Republican primary,” Trump said in his statement Thursday. “This bill has my Complete and Total Endorsement and Support. Every Member of the Wyoming Senate should vote for SF0097.”

Biteman told the Star-Tribune that he only found out about the statement a few minutes before it was released.

If successful, the bill would become effective almost immediately, in time for the 2022 primary and general elections, when Rep. Liz Cheney is up for reelection against the Trump-endorsed candidate Harriet Hageman.

Even before the 2022 House primary, the far right in Wyoming had been advocating for an end to crossover voting, which critics say leads to Democrats meddling in Republican elections. That fear has become more acute in the Cheney-Hageman contest, with conservatives worrying Democrats will change their party affiliation to support Cheney, who’s one of the most vocal Trump critics in Congress.

Cheney’s criticism of Trump, and the backlash that it’s provoked, has resulted in the most watched, congressional races of the year. It’s also brought unprecedented political attention to Wyoming.

On same day Trump backed the bill, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, endorsed Hageman over Cheney, who once served in leadership with him before losing her post.

Hageman also voiced her support for Biteman’s measure.

“This bill will go a long way toward ending this up to now legal, but unethical behavior, and restore confidence in our party nominating process,” Biteman said in a statement. “Party switching cancels out the vote of actual party members by those who wish to game the system and influence the outcome of their competing party’s nominating election.”

The leader of the Wyoming Democrats is skeptical of the actual motives behind the legislation.

“The whole point of this bill is to catch voters off guard,” Joe Barbuto, chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party, said in text message. “They’re counting on people not realizing they had to change their registration by the beginning of the candidate filing period in an attempt to curtail Democrats registering as Republicans to vote in the U.S. House primary. Let me be clear; I’m encouraging Democrats to participate in our primary, but that doesn’t mean I support limiting the rights of Wyoming voters. Senator Biteman and his cosponsors can stop purporting to be champions of liberty and freedom because this legislation is an insult to both of those ideals.”

The fight to end crossover voting, an effort supported by the state GOP, has been going on for years. The far right blamed the practice for contributing to the election of Gov. Mark Gordon over more conservative opponents in 2018, though figures later showed that wasn’t the case.

This is not the first time Trump has issued a statement regarding Wyoming elections.

“Remember though, in the end we just want ONE CANDIDATE running against Cheney,” Trump said in an earlier statement. “I’ll be meeting with some of her opponents in Bedminster next week and will be making my decision on who to endorse in the next few months. JUST ONE CANDIDATE.”

He eventually went on to endorse Hageman, who has been heavily campaigning across the state in recent weeks.

Wyoming voted for Trump by the highest margin in the nation during the 2020 election.

Follow state politics reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis

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