Let’s start with one simple truth: There is no evidence of widespread fraud in Wyoming elections.
County-level audits are already performed after each election, ensuring that they are conducted appropriately. Wyoming’s voting systems are not connected to the internet, eliminating the possibility they can be hacked on election day. A paper audit trail can verify every ballot. And the results speak for themselves: In the past four decades, millions of votes have been cast here. There have been only four convictions for election fraud in all that time. Four.
And yet, even given that reality, a small but vocal group of politicians are actively sowing doubt in our system. They’ve advocated for more audits and suggested that Wyoming’s existing system needs reform, despite lacking evidence that a problem actually exists. They’ve pushed election reform pledges, as if this is the critical issue facing our state. And they’ve indulged in the fantasy that voter fraud represents a critical issue for Wyoming.
Chief among them is Rep. Chuck Gray, a Casper Republican who’s made “election integrity” a focus of his campaign to unseat Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Gray notably traveled to Arizona to visit that state’s audit of its presidential race, proudly associating himself with a process that’s been marred by delays, lawsuits and allegations of mismanagement and partisanship. More recently, Gray sought to politicize the Wyoming Department of Audit by bringing it under the legislative branch, which would have given lawmakers the authority to conduct their own audits. That effort, thankfully, was overwhelmingly rejected by Gray’s Republican peers.
Then there is Rep. Chip Neimann, R-Hulettt, who faced blowback from his Republican colleagues when he pushed an election reform pledge because, as he wrote in an email to lawmakers, “Wyoming has struggled with primary election integrity.” That effort also prompted pushback from the county clerks who work quietly and tirelessly to ensure that Wyoming election system continues to be secure.
“We have worked our tails off to make sure that you have good elections, and we have not heard one single, solitary substantiated complaint that we have done something wrong,” Crook County Clerk Linda Fritz told a legislative committee. “So until we hear that, I think the legislative body really needs to consider what laws you pass to correct something that isn’t wrong.”
Lawmakers who are pushing the idea that Wyoming’s election system isn’t secure say they are responding to concerns from their constituents. And there is likely some truth in that. Misinformation about the 2020 election is rampant. But the responsible thing to do would be to educate residents on the myriad steps that Wyoming takes to ensure our elections are secure, rather than indulging in conspiracies.
It appears many of the politicians who are pushing election integrity claims have other motivations. The first is unbridled political ambition. They are willing to fan the flames of conspiracy and doubt if they believe it will help them achieve political ends. Their concern isn’t about improving our election system. This is about doing whatever they can to get elected. Politicizing election audits isn’t a serious solution. It’s grandstanding, pure and simple, except the consequences will be real if voters lose faith in a system that works.
The second motivation is just as pernicious. Focusing on election conspiracies allows politicians to distract voters from a critical reality: These lawmakers lack solutions to the actual, substantive issues facing Wyoming. Due to structural changes in the energy sector, Wyoming can no longer rely on fossil fuel companies to pay for government services like they once did. Lawmakers must choose whether to find the revenue elsewhere (likely in the form of new taxes) or make cuts to popular government service like public schools. That’s a difficult choice, and rather than make it, these politicians would rather distract you with outlandish claims and unprovable conspiracies.
The same people who claim our system isn’t secure are those who were elected under it. And yet they are not suggesting their own victories are in question. Instead, they assert the only people who have benefited from these supposed inequities are their political opponents. How convenient.
It’s time to recognize these efforts for what they are: a corrosive, harmful poison injected into our politics. Wyoming’s election system didn’t suddenly become subject to fraud. What changed is the chorus of politicians who are interested in sowing doubt for their own ends. It’s time to demand they sing a different tune and focus their attention on the actual problems facing this state.