It’s the legislation that just won’t die, even though it should.
After numerous defeats, lawmakers have managed to push the debate on crossover voting — switching parties to vote in an opposing primary — into both the House and Senate in Wyoming’s Legislature.
Carried by Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, Senate File 160 experienced close defeats in committee before a mirror bill in the House passed the House Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Tuesday morning. After initial defeats in the Senate, though, Senate President Drew Perkins assigned the bill to the Agriculture Committee, which heard the bill for the first time Tuesday night (after the mirror bill was passed in the House). The Agriculture Committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill, moving it forward to be placed on the general file in the Senate and debated on the floor Friday morning.
Staunch Republicans have said the legislation will help maintain party purity and protect the party nominating process. Those opposed to the bill say the prohibition on party changes prior to elections will further polarize Wyoming citizens and encourage party loyalty rather than support for the best candidate, especially when many races in Wyoming are determined in the primaries.
During the debate Friday morning, several members of the Legislature discussed constitutional rights that should be considered — voting rights and the right to freely associate, for example — and the potential consequences of restrictions.
In the end, though, the Senate’s Committee of the Whole passed SF160. It is expected to have a second reading Monday. In the House, the mirror legislation, HB106, was placed on the general file Tuesday.
More freedom and more participation are the answer, not less.
Restricting voters’ choices in primary elections denigrates the process, insults voters across the state who take great pride and care in casting their ballots and discourages participation from those who do not consider themselves party loyalists.