Secure elections are the cornerstone of a thriving republic. The right to vote in a free and fair election is the most basic civil right, one on which many of the other rights of the American people depend. Election integrity means the will of the voters prevails.
Unfortunately, some in the Wyoming State Legislature are again questioning the wisdom of Wyoming voters.
In the August Republican primary, voters chose Rep. Chuck Gray as their nominee for secretary of state. Gray beat Sen. Tara Nethercott by 8 points in the primary. He does not have a general election opponent.
Now some of Gray’s Republican colleagues are aiming to draft a bill to strip the secretary of state’s ability to oversee elections. The legislation would remove all election functions, including voter registration, campaign finance and candidate filing, from the office.
Though state and county officials — including outgoing Secretary of State Ed Buchanan — maintain Wyoming elections are free and secure, Gray campaigned on concerns that he has about election integrity.
Republican state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, who co-chairs the committee that deals with election laws in the state, told committee members he’s concerned that Gray could damage how Wyoming runs its elections, and he wants to change things.
“We may be in a precarious position when it comes to election administration for the next four years,” Zwonitizer said. “And I would feel more confident and comfortable, personally, having a separate operating agency of government made up of all five statewide elected officials who oversee a director of an office of elections.”
The committee approved his motion on a voice vote.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because Wyoming voters have been down this road before.
Just 12 days into the 2013 session, then-Gov. Matt Mead signed into law changes that stripped the state’s schools superintendent of nearly all duties. Instead, day-to-day activities of the office would be conducted by a director appointed by the governor.
This fight did not end well for the Legislature. Then-superintendent Cindy Hill challenged the “Hill Bill,” and ultimately, the Wyoming Supreme Court found that the constitution prohibited the Legislature from passing laws that stripped powers from an elected member of the executive branch of state government.
Aside from the costly legal battle, the real damage was to voters’ confidence in institutions. The legislation essentially nullified the people’s choice.
Gray ran on a platform. The voters put him in office. Let’s not go down the same unconstitutional path that has already been trodden and expect a different result. We urge members of the committee and the Wyoming Legislature to abandon this effort to thwart the results of this election.