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Democrats Call For Investigation Into Native American Voter Suppression

CC BY-SA 2.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

In the 2018 election, Native American communities around the country complained about incidents of voter suppression, and some complaints occurred here in Wyoming.

Now the Wyoming Democratic Party has requested an investigation in Fremont County concerning two incidents in the 2018 election. Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Joe Barbuto alleges that, in the first one, several Native voters attempted early registration at the Fremont County Clerk's Office in Lander but met resistance.
"The person manning the desk there had indicated to them they needed to go back to wherever their home precinct was or their home community. This person was discouraging them from registering there in the county clerk's office," said Barbuto.

The second incident at a polling station on the reservation allegedly involved a poll worker requiring Native voters to read aloud an oath.

"Asking someone to read something aloud is the same thing as a literacy test and our laws say that you cannot require literacy tests for somebody to be able to vote."

Will Dineen at the Secretary of State's office responded it's unlikely the poll worker required it read aloud.

"What I think might be described in there is actually an effort by the county clerk's office and staff or poll workers to assist a voter in being able to understand and attest to that oath," said Dineen.

Dineen said this is also the first his office has heard about the allegations and that they should have been submitted to them closer to the time of the events.

Barbuto disagrees.

"First of all, it's disingenuous to imply that this is a new complaint or something they didn't know was happening," said Barbuto. "We had these conversations with them several months ago as they happened."

But Dineen agreed there is a need to restore trust in the election process.

"I think certainly after the 2016 election cycle, voters trust was shaken across the country," Dineen said. "But this office had a flawless election, both in 2016 and 2018, but we're always working on increasing transparency and understanding."

The Wyoming Democratic Party has not yet heard from the Fremont County Attorney but expects to in coming days.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.

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