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State lawmakers look to limit crossover voting again

Tom Arthur
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Two bills that would limit crossover voting in Wyoming advanced out of the House Corporations Committee Monday, Jan. 30. Each would impose blackout periods before primary elections when voters could not change their affiliation from one major party to another.

One proposal from Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) would create a 14-day blackout period, while a more restrictive bill sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland) would apply a 45-day blackout before the primaries – plus 14 days before the general election. Both now await debate on the House floor.

Crossover voting has been a topic in the legislature for several years. Secretary of State Chuck Gray testified in favor of limiting the practice, saying many residents see it as a problem.

“It creates incentives for individuals who do not share a party's values to nonetheless prevent voters of that party from electing a candidate that represents the party's platform by crossing over for a day and diluting their voice,” he said.

Those against the bills, meanwhile, argue they hamper voter participation and could be unconstitutional. Jennifer Lowe with the Equality State Policy Center said that’s especially true for stricter restrictions where voters would have to choose their major party before they know what candidates are on the ballot. Haroldson's bill originally had a deadline of the beginning of the candidate filing period, but that was amended to the date when absentee ballots are being sent out.

“By imposing limits on a voter’s ability to change their party affiliation before candidates filed to run, you are effectively limiting their ability to make an educated decision based on all available information,” Lowe said.

Crossover voting was in the news over the summer when many Democrats switched parties to vote for Liz Cheney in the GOP congressional primary. Her challenger, current U.S. Wyoming Rep. Harriet Hageman, won in a landslide.

Will Walkey is a contributing journalist and former reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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