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Wyoming GOP pushes strict limits on absentee balloting
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Wyoming GOP pushes strict limits on absentee balloting

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Voting

Poll workers Sue Townsend, left, and Allyson Bright help guide voters in the Industrial Building at the fairgrounds in Casper on Nov. 3. The Wyoming Republican Party wants to put new limits on absentee balloting in the state.

The Wyoming Republican Party passed a resolution Saturday calling for the Wyoming Legislature and the secretary of state to pursue a significant tightening of Wyoming’s voting laws, including a ban on mail-in voting, limits on who can vote absentee and an end to electronic voting machines to help tabulate results.

The resolution — which passed by a wide margin at the party’s meeting in Rawlins — urges Wyoming leaders to impose numerous restrictions on voting access. These include the abolition of any form of mail-in balloting, curb-side voting or drop boxes to collect ballots. The state party also wants a requirement for people to register to vote in person rather than over the internet or by mail, and the rejection of any type of electronic machinery to tabulate votes.

Currently, Wyoming uses paper ballots that are then processed through electronic machines.

The resolution also includes language requesting policymakers to limit absentee balloting to only members of the U.S. military deployed outside Wyoming or with valid reasons preventing them from voting at the polling location. Currently, Wyoming residents do not need to provide any reason to vote absentee.

The recommendations follow the state’s record-breaking voter turnout in the 2020 election, which included an expanded absentee balloting program designed to avoid voter disenfranchisement amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They also parrot numerous concerns pushed by former President Donald Trump, who claimed numerous instances of voter fraud in several states he lost despite providing no evidence to support those claims. His supporters also lost roughly 60 court cases, many presided over by Republicans judges — including judges Trump appointed.

“An election system which is designed to prevent fraud is far better than a flawed election system in which the alleged losing candidate is required to prove that election fraud occurred,” a copy of the resolution obtained by the Star-Tribune reads. “In short, it is better to design an election system that is beyond repute than to design an election system in which the ‘losing’ candidate must hire computer experts to prove, during a short window of time, that election fraud occurred.”

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Wyoming elections officials say voter fraud is exceedingly rare here.

The Wyoming GOP’s efforts are not unique. So far in 2021, state policymakers in 28 states have introduced a total of 106 bills to restrict access to voting, while 35 states have sponsored 406 bills intended to expand access.

That trend has gained momentum in Wyoming as well: Last month, Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, introduced a voter identification bill with 55 sponsors in the House and Senate after similar bills failed to pass in three consecutive years.

Whether the Legislature will take up additional legislation addressing ballot access in 2021 is still an open question, however. In a letter to the Wyoming Republican Party over the weekend, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan defended the state’s current levels of ballot security, though he welcomed any additional comments on how to improve the integrity of Wyoming’s elections.

“I think most of us would agree that in Wyoming, we do elections the right way,” Buchanan wrote in a copy of the letter. “Always have, always will. A big part of securing our election process is growing voter confidence in our elections.”

Buchanan’s letter gently pushed back on a number of erroneous statements made in the resolution, including the suggestion Wyoming voters can currently register to vote by phone or over the internet (they cannot) and that the numbers of ballots cast in a particular race exceeding registration totals hinted at potential voter fraud. (Same-day registrants on Election Day do not count toward that month’s voter registration totals, meaning voter turnout can often exceed 100% in presidential election years.)

Buchanan also noted the difference between mail-in balloting (which is not used in Wyoming) and absentee balloting (which is).

“The battle for voter confidence is worth fighting for; this is the battle for democracy in a constitutional republic,” Buchanan wrote. “There is a growing narrative of election distrust in our country, some warranted and some not, that will ultimately be damaging to our democracy. In some states, corrections need to be made to build back trust in elections. Fortunately, that narrative does not represent how we conduct elections in Wyoming.”

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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

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