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Wyoming Voters Turnout And Switch Parties In Higher Numbers

Tennessee Watson

Voters turned out in strong numbers for Wyoming’s 2018 primary election. Several counties reported a significant uptick in Republican voters and an increase in voters switching party affiliation.

Chris Lindsey, the Natrona County Elections Deputy, said party changes are common during primary elections. But she said she did see even more of an increase in Republican-affiliated voters this year. She attributed the trend to a combination of new voters, as well as unaffiliated, Independent and Democrat voters switching their affiliation.

Teton County Elections Deputy Kellie Dickerson said overall turnout was up 11 percent compared to the 2014 primary, and this year there was an increased demand for Republican ballots at the polls.

Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales said she had to print off an extra 935 Republican ballots to cover demands.

“Certainly we ordered above and beyond the number of registered voters, but we had no idea that there would be such a wide variety of changes in party affiliation yesterday,” said Gonzales.

Laramie resident Birgit Burke changed her affiliation from Democrat to Republican as a political strategy. She was confident Mary Throne would win the Democratic gubernatorial primary, so she decided to use her vote to block out Republican candidates.

“There was a whole lot of rhetoric and not a lot of practicality,” said Burke. “So it was important for me to vote on the Republican ticket to vote for people I thought were moderate and practical.”

Burke said not all of her fellow Democrats were in favor of the tactic.

“I had people call me out and say ‘Oh, you’re playing games with your vote.’ I was like ‘No, I’m being strategic about who can absolutely not be allowed in government in Wyoming,’” explained Burke. “It was very important this year to vote on the Republican side of things because the choices were so stark.”

Calls for voters to switch parties went out on social media from supporters of Mark Gordon and Rod Miller, as well as a group called the “Independent Republicans of Wyoming” that organized a campaign called “Switch for Wyoming.”

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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