State bans crossover voting

Maya Shimizu Harris via Wyoming News Exchange
Posted 3/8/23

CASPER – Gov. Mark Gordon allowed House Bill 103 – legislation that bans crossover voting in Wyoming – to quietly become law without his signature on Thursday.

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State bans crossover voting


CASPER – Gov. Mark Gordon allowed House Bill 103 – legislation that bans crossover voting in Wyoming – to quietly become law without his signature on Thursday. 

He explained in a Thursday evening letter that he chose not to sign the bill because it “adds uncertainty to the voting process.” 

That ambiguity concerns whether or not someone registering to vote in the bill’s blackout period could also declare a party affiliation, Wheatland Republican Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, the bill’s sponsor, explained. 

House Bill 103 bars voters from changing their party affiliation after the first day of the candidate filing period. That means voters won’t be able to see what their candidate options are before deciding which party ticket they want to vote on for primary elections, unless people advertise their candidacy before that filing date. 

There will also be a 14-day blackout period before general elections. Voters won’t be able to cancel their registration in those time periods; allowing those cancellations would make a loophole for people to re-register with a different party affiliation, Haroldson has explained. 

Ending the practice of crossover voting was one of the top priorities of Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who campaigned primarily on a platform of ousting voter fraud and who has described crossover voting as “a process which has undermined the sanctity of Wyoming’s primary process.” 

“I support this bill 100%, and the Wyoming Legislature made the right decision by passing HB 103,” Gray said in a statement following the Senate’s approval of the bill. 

After Gordon’s announcement on Thursday, Gray said in a statement that he “couldn’t be more excited” about the bill becoming law and “will ensure its proper implementation.” 

Opponents of House Bill 103 have argued that the legislation will disenfranchise voters and push people to change their party affiliation to Republican regardless of whether or not they actually hold Republican values. 

Mary Lankford, a former Sublette County clerk and current lobbyist for the County Clerks Association of Wyoming, said at committee meetings that implementing the bill will require “pretty heavy voter education for the public so that they aren’t caught short.” 

Gordon acknowledged in his Thursday letter that the adjustments that will have to take place. 

“No matter what, the changes resulting from this adjustment to Wyoming law will cause some confusion in the coming primary,” he wrote. “However, nearly 93 percent of Wyoming voters are now registered Republicans, making the presumed changes perhaps more academic than real. I urge voters to learn about these changes so that they may vote their desired major party ballot in 2024.” 

Wyoming lawmakers have pushed for legislation to bar crossover voting for several years. 

The practice came to the fore in particular following the primary battle between Rep. Harriet Hageman and former Rep. Liz Cheney, during which Cheney encouraged Democrats to cross over and vote for her. 

Before this session, no bills to restrict crossover voting had survived the Legislature’s scrutiny. 

It appeared earlier in the session that this year’s legislation would meet the same fate. Identical legislation to House Bill 103 that was sponsored by Ranchester Republican Sen. Bo Biteman died on its first hearing in the Senate Corporations Committee early last month. The Senate committee gave House Bill 103 the same treatment, killing the legislation in a 3-1 vote. 

But then Senate Majority Floor Leader Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, made a successful motion to resurrect the bill and refer it to the Senate Revenue Committee.With Biteman as chair of that committee, the panel was from the outset more favorable for the bill’s survival. It ended up clearing the committee in a 4-1 vote.

During the bill’s journey through the Legislature, lawmakers attempted 12 times to tweak the language. 

Proposed changes included shortening the blackout period before primary elections and allowing parties to opt out of the crossover restrictions. Only two of those attempts were successful, but one deleted the other, so they didn’t change the legislation. 

The legislation’s fate was uncertain even after clearing the Senate. 

On Tuesday, Haroldson, the bill’s sponsor, posted a call-to-action video on Facebook calling for people to contact the governor’s office and push Gordon to allow the bill to become law. 

“We’re standing at the point where I believe we have the ability to make this bill pass or not,” Haroldson said in the video. 

Though Gordon allowed the bill to become law without his signature, it wasn’t without some trepidation about its potential consequences. 

“What was delivered to my desk has ambiguity with the potential to deny participation in a major party primary election in a few limited circumstances,” Gordon wrote in his Thursday letter. “That said, the bill’s sponsor assured me that was not his intent. 

Furthermore, he and those who will be responsible for implementing the statute have agreed to work on clarifying the legal ambiguity before the next primary election.

Michael Pearlman, the governor’s spokesperson, said Gordon has asked Haroldson to bring clarifying language for the bill next session so that it can be in place before the next primary election. Haroldson said he plans to work on that clarifying language with the secretary of state and county clerks in the interim.