A measure to require a photo ID at the polls is sailing through the Legislature — despite testimony from the Secretary of State and local election clerks that voter fraud is not a problem in Wyoming.
House Bill 75 – voter fraud-prevention would require voters to present either a valid Wyoming driver’s license, tribal ID, U.S. passport, military ID or Medicare insurance card when voting in person. Passage of the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) and co-sponsored by 56 lawmakers between the House and Senate, is all but certain.
The House Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee voted 6-3 Wednesday to advance HB 75 after debate and testimony from about a dozen members of the public. Rep. Aaron Clauson (R-Douglas), Rep. Andi Clifford (D-Riverton) and Rep. Jim Roscoe (I-Wilson) cast the three dissenting votes.
It’s been a three-year process to get momentum behind a voter ID bill, Gray said, acknowledging that support has rocketed among the GOP-controlled Legislature since the 2020 presidential election.
The purpose of HB 75 is to instill confidence in Wyoming elections, Gray said.
“The overall rule is increased confidence will lead to increased participation,” Gray told committee members.
Critics, however, say the measure seeks a solution to a non-existent threat and could present a new barrier to Wyoming voters who have never been required to present a voter ID at the polls.
Opponents to HB 75, including Reps. Clauson, Clifford and Roscoe, and several members of the public who testified on Wednesday, worry that HB 75 will potentially turn legitimately registered Wyoming voters away from the polls, and that it essentially seeks to legitimize false and resoundingly debunked claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
HB 75 would “support the false narrative that our elections currently are insecure and the results are unreliable,” Marguerite Herman of the League of Women Voters of Wyoming said.
“I don’t think that’s true,” Herman added. “I haven’t seen any evidence of it.”
Secretary of State Edward Buchanan credits local election officials and the small-town nature of Wyoming for the extremely low incidents of voter fraud, he said. However, he supports HB 75 as a “proactive” measure to instill confidence among voters.
“Our small population and having those personal relationships, I think, has prevented a fair amount of fraud,” Buchanan told the committee. “If folks ever lose faith in our elections then all is lost because they will lose faith in their government, they will lose faith in law enforcement, they will lose faith in the legislature, in my office [and] anyone that’s in a position of authority.”
Fraud protection or restricted access?
Until now, Wyoming has avoided major changes to the state’s voting laws, bucking against a movement among some states to further restrict registration and voting rules. In 2020, the state passed a law authorizing tribal IDs for voter registration — addressing a long-standing challenge to voter access on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
However, the issue has gathered renewed energy in the wake of allegations of massive voter fraud in the 2020 elections — all debunked, including by the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford. Still, the GOP — nationally and in Wyoming — has doubled efforts in recent months to push for more restrictions in the name of preventing fraud.
The Wyoming GOP is pushing measures to restrict absentee voting in Wyoming, and in 2020 passed a resolution to “require all voters in any election to provide proof of citizenship and residency upon voter registration and also State approved photo identification at the polling place.”
Cassie Craven, representing Wyoming Liberty Group, said she believes concerns about restricting access to qualified voters under HB 75 can be worked out. Meantime, it’s critical to establish election security measures — such as a voter ID requirement — proactively, she said.
“I don’t support a method of lawmaking that sits back and waits until something is broken before we take initiative to make it right,” Craven told committee members.
What actually undermines Wyoming voters’ faith in the integrity of elections are false claims of voter and election fraud, Equality State Policy Center Executive Director Chris Merrill said.
“We do not have a voter fraud problem in Wyoming,” Merrill told committee members. “We have a voter participation problem. We should be doing everything we can to encourage and enable more eligible voters to vote.”
Unlike dozens of states, Wyoming hasn’t enacted more restrictive registration and voting rules in recent years, such as stricter ID requirements or curtailed voting hours and early voting opportunities. However, stricter ID laws and measures to prevent “cross-over” party registration in primary elections are perennial issues before the Wyoming Legislature.
“In the state of Wyoming, I’m not concerned about fraud,” Crook County Clerk Linda Fritz said during a recent webinar on voter access sponsored by the Equality State Policy Center.
Wyoming’s voter registration regime includes a series of vetting at county election offices, Fritz said. Once registered, a voter does not have to present an ID to vote in-person or by absentee ballot. However, each ballot is scrutinized to ensure there is no duplication or misrepresentation — a felony crime if intentional, she added.
“For fraud to be rampant you would have to have major collusion from multiple parties, at least in the state of Wyoming, and I just don’t think there are that many people willing to do that,” Fritz said.
Fritz did not speak in opposition to HB 75 during the ESPC webinar in February. However, a representative of the Wyoming Association of County Clerks told Wyoming lawmakers Wednesday it is asking for a handful of amendments to HB 75, including:
- Expanding Wyoming’s 2020 law authorizing tribal ID for voting to include all federally recognized tribal members.
- Including driver’s licenses issued by all U.S. states and territories as a valid form of voting ID.
- Including all Wyoming university and community college IDs as valid to cast a vote.
Wyoming AARP, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation and several other organizations spoke in favor of HB 75 on Wednesday, with some qualifications for wider inclusion of qualifying ID requirements.
“I don’t think we know how much of a [voter/election fraud] problem we have,” Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Director of Public and Governmental Affairs Brett Moline told committee members. “I don’t think it’s very big,” but HB 75 will help boost voter confidence, he added.
“I will also fight to the death and go anywhere in this state if I were to ever find that someone is disenfranchised or someone who is an eligible voter is not being allowed to vote,” Secretary Buchanan told the committee. “I believe we can have the best of all worlds here. And as long as I’m Secretary of State, I will see to it that every eligible voter is able to vote, and I will also see that our elections have the utmost integrity.”