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Wyoming lawmakers seek new voter residency requirement in upcoming session

Outside a voting location in Riverton, Wyoming during the 2022 midterm election.
Taylar Stagner
Wyoming Public Radio
Outside a voting location in Riverton, Wyoming during the 2022 midterm election.

Wyomingites could see new voter restrictions come out of the upcoming legislative session. A bill filed by state lawmakers could make it so voters have to live in the state for at least 30 days to register.

The bill’s proponents say it clears up ambiguity around who exactly is qualified to vote in Wyoming.

However, some lawmakers argue it represents a solution to a problem Wyoming doesn’t really have. In general, voter fraud in the state is rare, and they say this proposed requirement would be another barrier to voting.

Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese is one of the officials that would be responsible for implementing the change in the state. She said that the bill would help ensure clerks aren’t blamed for nonresidents casting ballots on Election Day.

“When people are coming to our communities and saying, ‘We believe you have fraud and people that are voting that should not be voting,’ and our answer to them has been, ‘Well, we really don't have any residency requirements,’” said Freese.

Freese said this bill could clear up some misconceptions. It comes as poll workers and election officials have been under increased scrutiny in recent years following attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The new regulation would make people sign an updated oath when registering to vote, but wouldn’t require them to bring physical identification to prove their residency.

If a voter lies about the length of their residency when registering, county clerks can refer them to law enforcement, according to Freese.

“So I do think this does give us a little bit of teeth on that, if we really do have people that are coming in and voting in our elections that should not be,” she said.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Chuck Gray is pursuing a similar voting residency requirement that would tighten restrictions even further.

Gray’s proposed rule change to election procedures would mean that voters also have to provide proof of identification to confirm their residency when registering.

But some legislators have called into question whether or not Gray and his office are fully authorized to initiate such a drastic change to the election code, saying that the update should first have to come from a statute passed by the Legislature.

The 2024 legislative session kicks off on Monday, Feb. 12.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

Chris Clements is a state government reporter and digital media specialist for Wyoming Public Media based in Laramie. He came to WPM from KSJD Radio in Cortez, Colorado, where he reported on Indigenous affairs, drought, and local politics in the Four Corners region. Before that, he graduated with a degree in English (Creative Writing) from Arizona State University. Chris's news stories have been featured on KUNC, NPR newscasts, and National Native News, among others.

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