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An election security bill stumbles but continues progress through the legislature

Poll workers set up voting machines for early voting in Provo, Utah, in 2016.
George Frey
Getty Images
Poll workers set up voting machines for early voting in Provo, Utah, in 2016.

A bill that would impact the election systems and codify existing rules established by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office is continuing its journey through the legislature. House Bill 47, sponsored by the Joint Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, was received for concurrence on Feb. 13 but failed on a 6-54-2 vote in the House due to issues with amendments.

“We had a standing committee amendment that went through the rules and found, ‘Okay, so here's a list of rules that are not being codified,’ and then we just decided to codify them,” said Rep. Jared Olson (R-Laramie). “That's where the bill left. The amendment is a little peculiar, because it basically adopted half of our standing committee amendment and then went back in and backtracked and erased half of our standing committee amendment.”

The bill takes rules on election certification from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office related to federal certification of election systems and would codify them if signed into law. It was laid back or delayed on its third reading in the Senate but later passed that chamber on a 24-7 vote on Feb. 13.

“I just haven't really had the opportunity to speak with the good chairman [Sen. Cale Case] on the other side who was the author of that amendment to understand exactly why half of our standing committee amendment would be acceptable, and the other half would not,” Olson said.

The bill has been touted by Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who said it would improve the security of the state’s elections and increase voter confidence in the system. But critics expressed concerns about what this could mean for counties and any additional state requirements that would be added on top of what already exists at the federal level.

“From our standpoint, it makes sense to just put into statute all the rules,” Olson said. “Either put them all in or don't put them in, but since the bill puts them in, that's what we're doing.”

A joint concurrence committee was formed on Feb. 13 and 14 with Reps. Jared Olson, Forrest Chadwick (R-Evansville), Art Washut (R-Casper) and Sens. Cale Case (R-Lander), Eric Barlow (R-Gillette), and Tim Salazar (R-Riverton) to iron out the differences in the bill.

The joint conference committee was formed after the House failed to concur, or adopt the Senate’s version of the bill. This sometimes happens when one chamber rejects amendments associated with the opposite chamber’s bill. A date for the joint committee meeting hasn’t yet been set.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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