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Early Voting

A voter casts his ballot Aug. 15 during early voting at the Natrona County Clerk's office. Wyoming's 2018 primary election is Tuesday.

After months of anticipation and millions of dollars spent, Primary Day is finally upon us in the Equality State, with voters set to decide on nominees for a wide-open governor’s race that’s attracted nine candidates.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the biggest things to look for as results roll in tonight.

What Will Move The Gov Race?

Polls and endorsements that arrive in the waning days of primary season do quite a bit to attract eyeballs to candidates. But do those eyes translate to voters at the polls?

On the final day of campaigning before Primary Day, GOP megadonor Foster Friess netted two prime endorsements from conservative figurehead Kyle Kashuv (a pro-Second Amendment survivor of the Parkland Shootings) and Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul, whom Friess once described in 2015 as “his hero.” This adds to a list of celebrity endorsements from Friess that have included action movie star Chuck Norris and Donald Trump Jr.

Conversely, candidate Mark Gordon has received significant amounts of institutional support, drawing endorsements from 16 current Wyoming state representatives, five current state senators, 16 former state legislators and various high-profile names in Wyoming politics, including former U.S. Senator Al Simpson, State Auditor Cynthia Cloud, former Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield and former Wyoming Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diana Ohman.

At the same time, three different polls released this past week have shown three different front-runners heading into Tuesday’s vote, with two out of three offering the same conclusion: the GOP nomination is anyone’s game. The most scientific poll to be released this past week could arguably be an update to a June poll conducted by researchers at the University of Wyoming, who found Gordon to be leading the field at a clip of 26 percent – well ahead of Foster Friess and Harriet Hageman. However, with a 4-point margin of error and 15 percent of voters still undecided, the race is still, arguably, wide-open: albeit with three clear frontrunners.

Released last week, a poll from national polling firm The Trafalgar Group showed Friess with a slight lead over Gordon. However, that lead was well within the approximate 2 percent margin of error listed by the firm. A third poll over the weekend, conducted for the Hageman campaign by digital consulting firm, Liftable Media, showed Hageman with a nearly 3 point lead over Gordon and a 5 point lead over Friess. However, that poll has a number of discrepancies that call its reliability into question, including its disproportionate response rate by gender (62 percent female, compared to 38 percent male). The poll also relies exclusively on data compiled via Facebook and under a broad umbrella of individuals who identify as “conservatives,” leaving uncertainty that the poll is truly representative of the pulse of all voters at large.

The U.S. Senate Race

One of the evening’s more intriguing finishes to watch will be in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate between David Dodson and incumbent, John Barrasso. Dodson has been on the offensive throughout the campaign, running on an extensive and comprehensive platform. Much of the 40-page policy document is rooted in stances that are pure Wyoming – bringing back coal production, maintaining federal control of public land – but also pushes for reforms such as reducing the influence of money in politics and instituting term limits that come straight from the playbook of populist and even progressive candidates.

Though Dodson has challenged his opponent to debate on numerous occasions, Barrasso’s campaign has preferred to keep quiet on direct comparisons to policy, sticking instead to a slate of campaign appearances and rolling out a website called, tying Dodson to campaign donations to both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders and registering as a Republican – from being ‘unaffiliated’ — before moving to Jackson: one of the wealthiest locales in the country. Barrasso’s campaign has also released a number of other attacks, filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission based on his campaign ads (they were missing Dodson saying his name, followed by “and I approved this message”) and calling out his advertising for using Canadian cowboys – rather than Wyoming cowboys. Dodson has since put out a website offering a rebuttal to all these attacks.

On the Democratic side, presumptive nominee Gary Trauner faces an uphill battle – the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Wyoming’s Senate seat as a “Solid R” – but Democratic turnout in this race could serve as an important indicator to the vitality of the party within one of the most conservative states in the country. The spread should be interesting: The last time Barrasso ran against a Democrat was in 2012, a year Democratic President Barack Obama finished with 28 percent of the vote in Wyoming. The Senate challenger, Tim Chestnut, took home less than 22 percent of the vote.

Will It Be Helm Or Hunter?

Facing two challengers within her own party, incumbent Congresswoman Liz Cheney is expected to coast on her way to a second bid in the U.S. House of Representatives. With just one seat up for grabs in a state that, by registration, is considered by the Cook Political Report to be the 17th-most Republican district nationally, Cheney is anticipated to win an easy victory against whoever emerges from the Democratic primary between Travis Helm and Greg Hunter.

Political forecaster FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats just a 1 percent chance of defeating Cheney. And even when Cheney was a newcomer in 2016, her opponent still only received 30 percent of the vote.

Who Will Actually Show Up?

With same day voter registration here in Wyoming, it’s difficult to gauge how strong turnout will be in advance of an election. However, there is one demographic here that will always play a significant factor: the 50-and-older crowd. And the state’s AARP office is encouraging them to vote this year.

Approximately 71 percent of eligible residents were registered to vote in the 2016 election in a year where turnout in Wyoming was 63.5 percent overall. However, as a presidential election year, turnout was bound to be higher. So the AARP, looking to boost engagement in the process among the nation’s most politically active demographics, has been working to get them out to vote.

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In a district-by-district breakdown conducted by the Wyoming AARP, it was found that 41 percent of all Wyoming’s residents over the age of 50 are AARP members. More than 207,000 Wyoming residents are age 50 and over. Nationally, according to the most recent Census data available, nearly 74,000,000 Americans age 45 and over – or 66 percent of the voting population – were eligible to vote. Not a bad share, considering that number accounts for roughly 46 percent of the population. Especially when every age bracket included in that 50 plus crowd reported registration rates over 70 percent and turnout rates over 65 percent. While breakdowns of voter registration by age group are not immediately available for Wyoming, we’ll see how mobilization efforts impact the race here.

Democratic campaigns have also been working to increase voter turnout on the Reservation here: on Monday, several Democratic candidates held a get out the vote event in Ethete.

Important facts to know

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

You can register to vote at the polls.

  • Just make sure to bring some form of identification: preferably a Wyoming driver’s license.

Your vote is safe!

  • A recent press release from the Wyoming Secretary of State offered numerous reasons as to why the state’s elections will be secure. Among them, Wyoming voting systems are never connected to the internet and cannot be hacked. And, because the state’s registration system interfaces with numerous state databases, voter fraud is not anticipated.

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* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Follow politics reporter Nick Reynolds on Twitter @IAmNickReynolds


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