Voting is a fundamental right of our democracy. The decisions made on school boards, in city halls, at the state legislature and in Congress impact the lives of all Wyoming residents. And while there are so many ways to influence our elected officials, there is only one way to determine who those officials will be: voting.
On Tuesday, voters will decide which candidates will represent us for the next few years. Because Wyoming’s election laws allow for same-day voter registration, even people who have not yet registered to vote can go to the polls and cast their ballot on Election Day.
Wyoming is fortunate in that we have same-day voter registration and that we don’t have the kind of voter ID laws which have disenfranchised voters around the country. In many ways our access to the voting booth has been protected, though that does not mean every eligible voter is getting there. In the primary this year, only 30 percent did — if our democracy is to function, we need to encourage everyone to get out to vote on November 6.
We know that even with generally good election laws there is still uncertainty, confusion and sometimes fear when it comes to casting your vote. From knowing where your polling place is to knowing what kind of identification to bring (or if any is needed at all), finding the right information to both register and vote can be difficult.
Wyoming is also not immune to the influences of the current national rhetoric. County clerks around the state have been put on notice to watch out for intimidation tactics like anonymous fliers telling Latino voters they need to be prepared with identification at their polling places because Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be there to check. These fliers are the kind of false information designed to intimidate and even prevent people who have the legal right to vote from doing so. Anyone who believes the integrity of our elections depends on full and informed participation should be outraged by these attempts to keep citizens from voting.
And there is still work we can do to improve access to the polls in Wyoming. Tribal members in Fremont County who have experienced the confusion around what kind of identification is needed to register have been frustrated by the lack of clarity in the process. These are significant issues, and problems we know can be fixed.
[Read a recent Casper Star-Tribune report on allegations of discrimination against voters on the Wind River Indian Reservation]
Because nothing is more sacred to our democracy than the fundamental right to vote, Wyoming should be doing everything in its power to encourage participation from all eligible voters instead of playing games with this sacred right.
The reality is our country currently has a voter suppression problem. In the 2016 election, 14 states had restrictive voting laws that were not in place during the previous presidential election. Such laws suppress voting. A 2014 study by the U.S. GAO found that states with strict voter ID laws see a reduction in turnout of several percentage points. In Kansas and Tennessee alone, the adoption of such measures translated to a total of approximately 122,000 fewer votes.
Attempts are made nearly every year in the Wyoming legislature to enact more restrictive voting laws here as well. Fortunately every year these efforts fail. But it will take consistent attention to our voting rights — not just on Election Day, but year-round — to ensure these efforts do not make headway in the Equality State.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming and the Equality State Policy Center have a long history of helping voters understand and exercise their rights. We have been at the forefront of the fight against voter suppression as well as the movement to allow new voter access. Our organizations will be available to all Wyoming residents on Election Day to ensure our registration and voting processes across the state are fair and open to all.
If you encounter any issues on Election Day, call (307) 228-4163 and we will do everything in our power to make sure your right to vote is protected, and your vote on Election Day is counted.
Empowering every American with the correct information to exercise their right to vote is crucial to a transparent and equal democracy.
See you at the polls.