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Bo Biteman

State Senator-elect Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, talks in the hall outside the Wyoming House of Representatives chambers in January 2017 at the Jonah Business Center in Cheyenne. Biteman is introducing legislation to address crossover voting in Wyoming elections.

A newly elected state senator is introducing a bill to address crossover voting in Wyoming’s elections, despite a lack of appetite by the committee that sets the rules for elections across the state.

Sponsored by Senator-elect Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, the bill — if enacted — would require voters looking to switch their party to fill out an application before a notary or election official, which they would then be required to file with the county clerk.

Like previous versions of the bill, the legislation also sets parameters for when voters can change their party, and would prevent voters from changing their party affiliation during the roughly 10-week period between candidates officially filing for office and the primary election.

The bill would also require changes in party affiliation to be recorded by an election judge. According to a fiscal note attached to the bill by the state treasurer’s office, there will be added administrative duties levied upon county election officials should the bill be enacted. However, it is currently unclear what the cost of the bill would be or whether or not it would require additional staffing. However, previous fiscal notes for similar bills have noted the financial impact would be negligible.

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Crossover voting, as a practice, has long been a point of contention for the most conservative members of the state’s Republican Party, who have alleged the state’s Democrats have taken advantage of the state’s same day voter registration laws to interlope in the opposing party’s primaries. In this year’s GOP primary, some alleged Democratic groups purposefully influenced the vote to favor more moderate candidates, though it is unclear how broad of an impact campaigns by groups like Switch For Wyoming — which spent less than $700 on its electioneering, according to campaign finance disclosures — may have had.

Other supporters of reforms to the state’s elections have argued that crossover voting restrictions would help to ensure the integrity of the party nominating process. Last month, a lobbyist for Foster Friess — the runner-up in a hotly-contested GOP primary who called for changes to the state’s electoral process shortly after his loss — expressed the case to the state’s Joint Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions. However the committee, which is sponsoring more than a dozen separate bills in the 2019 general session, declined to formally take up the issue.

Conservative groups across the state have put crossover voting in their legislative sights for this year’s general session and are seemingly unfazed by numerous failed attempts in the past to change the law. A crossover voting bill has appeared on the docket in all but one general session since 2011. Most recently, a 2015 version of the bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Blackburn, R-Cheyenne, failed with similar wording to Biteman’s bill, despite being pared down from a lengthier version of a failed crossover voting bill in 2013.

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