Senate Chambers capitol

The Senate Chamber during the 67th Legislature in the Wyoming Capitol on January 18, 2023. Photo by Michael Smith

CASPER — Lawmakers have tried for years to push through legislation to restrict crossover voting. This session, they finally succeeded. 

House Bill 103, which significantly restricts when people can change their party affiliation, cleared its last vote in the Legislature on Friday in a 19-11 vote. Though the bill has made it through the Legislature, Gov. Mark Gordon must still decide on it. 

The bill, sponsored by Wheatland Republican Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, would bar voters from changing their party affiliation after the first day of the candidate filing period. In other words, voters wouldn’t be able to see what their candidate options are before deciding which party ticket they want to vote on for the primary election. 

There would also be a 14-day blackout period prior to general elections. Voters wouldn’t be able to cancel their registration in those time periods, because allowing those cancellations would make a loophole allowing people to re-register with a different party affiliation. 

Proponents of the bill have argued that crossover voting has muddied Republican elections, paving the way for moderate Republicans to get voted in. Primary elections, they say, are meant for parties to select their nominees, and people should commit to a party regardless of the candidate choices come election time. 

Those who oppose the bill say that it will disenfranchise voters and push people to permanently switch to the Republican Party, even if they don’t agree with that party’s values. 

What’s more, some argued that in a state where the competition is almost exclusively in the primaries, limiting people’s ability to change parties to select their preferred candidates takes away their ability to make meaningful choices in elections. 

“I submit to you that what this bill does is eliminate a significant part of our population from participating in the election that actually selects who’s going to represent them,” Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, said earlier this week, calling the restrictions “flat-dead wrong.” 

Three attempts to add amendments to the legislation failed on Friday. 

One, brought by Senate Minority Floor Leader Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, would have allowed political parties to opt out of the bill’s restrictions. 

Sen. Scott’s amendment clarified that people who are unregistered can still register to vote in the blackout periods. 

The last, sponsored by Lander Republican Sen. Cale Case, would have made the blackout period before the primary election 45 days, rather than beginning from the first day of the candidate filing period. That would have allowed voters to view candidates before deciding which party they wanted to vote for. 

In total, there were 12 attempts to make amendments to the bill. 

Only two of them were adopted, but the second of the two deleted the first, so those amendments don’t make any difference to the legislation. 

The failure to compromise on any parts of the bill frustrated some lawmakers. 

“I have voted against [House Bill 103] every single time, and part of the reason I’ve voted against it is there seems to be an unwillingness from a lot of folks in my party to make any kind of adjustments to it that make it better,” Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, said. 

Attempts to push through crossover legislation seemed to be at a dead end again this session when, earlier this month, all bills aiming to do so had died. 

That includes House Bill 103, which was voted down in the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee in a 3-1 vote. 

But then, Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, called for a vote to revive the bill and send it to the Senate Revenue Committee.

Such a move is rare, but within the Senate’s rules. That motion succeeded. 

The Senate Revenue Committee was much more favorable for the bill’s survival. 

Ranchester Republican Sen. Bo Biteman, the committee’s chairman, sponsored a mirror bill that also died in the Senate Corporations Committee. 

After the legislation cleared that committee in a 3-1 vote, it was practically a given that the bill would make it through the Senate.

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