Dr. Taylor Haynes doesn’t meet the constitutional requirements to serve as Wyoming’s next governor because he registered to vote in 2014 using a borderland ranch address where the houses sit in Colorado, the state’s attorney general says. Court documents show Haynes may have been informed that his ranch did not qualify for Wyoming residency as early as March, 2015.
“The state of Wyoming believes that Dr. Haynes is not eligible to hold the office of Governor if elected in the 2018 general election,” documents signed by Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael say.
Based on forms Haynes signed in 2014 and again in 2015, the candidate for the Republican nomination for governor appears to have lived in Colorado for eight months in 2014 and 2015, Michael wrote in his complaint. Michael made the allegation in documents filed with the First Judicial Court of Laramie County on Friday. Michael is seeking an injunction from a judge to force Haynes out of the primary race or to give the Secretary of State authority to nullify his candidacy.
The Albany County Elections Clerk sought to inform Haynes his ranch didn’t meet the state’s criteria for Wyoming residency in March of 2015, according to a letter that was included in Michael’s court filing.
The filing comes as controversy over Haynes residency engulfs his campaign following a July 5 WyoFile report making news of an investigation public. Haynes has fiercely denied the allegations that he may not be a Wyoming resident, most recently in an interview with the Big Horn Radio Network, where he called WyoFile reports “fake news.”
The Haynes campaign did not respond to a request to comment for this story.
In a press release on Saturday, the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office said it had received a complaint against Haynes on June 25 and referred it to Michael’s office. The Secretary of State sought clarification from Haynes about his residency and passed that information to the AG’s office as well, the press release said.
The AG’s complaint does not address the fact that in filing for his most recent gubernatorial run, Haynes swore and affirmed that he resided at an address in Laramie that appears to be occupied by his business. Instead, it focused on Haynes’ registration to vote in November 2014, shortly after he moved from a home in Laramie County to his ranch.
The move came shortly after Haynes had received 31,532 votes in the 2014 gubernatorial primary. In a press release Friday, Haynes claimed to have moved to Albany County in 2013. Records show he voted in Laramie County during the 2014 primary, however.
Haynes registered and voted in Albany County using an address for his ranch for the 2014 general election. According to a supporting brief filed with the AG’s complaint, “the election judge erroneously permitted Haynes to vote” in that election.
In Friday’s interview with Big Horn Radio Network host Darian Dudrick and in a subsequent press release from his campaign, Haynes said that the deed and the title for his ranch use a Wyoming address and no Colorado address exists for the ranch.
In a press release that the Haynes campaign provided to news outlets around the state Friday but not to WyoFile, he said taxes on the ranch were paid in Wyoming. “All licenses, including driver’s licenses and license plates, taxes, utilities, registrations, fees, etc., are paid to Wyoming,” he said. But property tax records for Larimer County, Colorado show an LLC registered to Haynes paid $7,201 in property taxes to that county in 2018. The assessed properties in Colorado included a residence.
Previous denizens of the ranch have always been Wyoming residents, Haynes said on the radio. “Suddenly we show up and they want to change the rules?” he asked.
According to the court documents, the Albany County address didn’t qualify under the state’s residency requirements and Haynes was informed of such when he was removed from the voter rolls in 2015. In March of that year, Albany County Elections Judge Jackie Gonzales wrote Haynes to inform him that the address he used was in Colorado.
“I am writing to let you know that it has been discovered that your address is not within the boundaries of Albany County, Wyoming,” Gonzales wrote. “All addresses above 699 Bull Mountain Road are legally a part of Larimer County, Colorado.” The elections office was going to have to cancel Haynes’ registration due to “disqualification of residency requirements,” she wrote.
Under Wyoming statute, Haynes had twenty days to respond to the letter and contest the decision. He did not do so, the AG wrote in his filing.
Later, in July 2015, Haynes changed his address to one in downtown Laramie. As previously reported by WyoFile, it’s unclear if that property was in fact a residence. The address belongs to a commercial property acquired in 2014 by Thunderbasin Land and Livestock LLC., according to the Albany County assessor’s office. That’s the same corporation that owns Haynes ranch.
At the time, the property was listed with the Albany County assessor’s office as having mixed retail space with office units. There was no record of residential space. Google shows it as having once been occupied by Mountain Management Benefits Company, a company associated with Haynes’ medical service company Prodegi.
But in changing his voter registration, Haynes used his ranch address as his previous residence, again swearing to have resided there, according to the AG’s filing.
“Based on Dr. Haynes’s two sworn statements and the Colorado property records, he actually habitated on the Colorado parcel associated with the [ranch address],” the complaint reads. “Because the only residential buildings on the ranch are located on the Colorado parcel outside the borders of Wyoming, Dr. Haynes actually resided in Colorado during that period,” from November, 2014 to July, 2015.
Who’s minding the store?
In addition to the question of Haynes’ residency, the court filings and press releases reveal a significant question about Wyoming’s election law. Does the Secretary of State have the authority to keep someone off a ballot if he or she believes that person would be ineligible to serve.
The AG’s office and the Secretary of State are asking a judge to make two “simultaneous determinations,” according to the latter agency’s press release. The Secretary of State hopes a judge will decide if Haynes meets the residency requirement and in doing so give the candidate a chance to further plead his case, the release said. He also hopes the judge will rule on whether the Secretary of State has “the legal and statutory authority to act” upon such information.
News of the court filings was first reported by the Laramie Boomerang on Saturday afternoon. As recently as Friday, Haynes was calling questions about his residency politically motivated and without basis.
In his press release, Haynes noted that Secretary of State Ed Buchanan was once the campaign manager for GOP gubernatorial candidate and Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman. Buchanan served as Hageman’s campaign manager but resigned before he was sworn in as Secretary of State, according to the Laramie Boomerang’s report. Buchanan was appointed to his current office following former Secretary of State Ed Murray’s resignation in the face of sexual misconduct and assault allegations.
Hageman could be the candidate with the most to gain from Haynes leaving the race, as the two are widely seen as competing for similar conservative voters.
In his radio interview on Friday, Haynes and host Dudrick slammed WyoFile’s reporting. “It’s clearly fake news,” Haynes said. He suggested the news outlet was targeting him because of his political beliefs. “I don’t think they like the pure conservative aspect of my platform,” he said.
Dudrick agreed with Haynes, referring to a WyoFile reporter as a “so-called writer” and saying the outlet should have abandoned the story after seeing the Albany County address on Haynes’ ranch title and deed.