CHEYENNE (AP) — Voters in Wyoming would not be able to switch their political party affiliation on primary election day under a measure passed Tuesday by the state Senate.
The bill was approved on a 20-10 vote and sent to the House of Representatives, which is working on its own version of the measure.
Wyoming currently allows voters to change party affiliation on primary or general election day. That has some members of the Republican Party, the dominant political party in the state, complaining that Democratic crossover voters can unfairly influence Wyoming’s GOP primaries. The bill approved by the Senate would not allow people to switch their party affiliation over about five weeks leading up to the primary election or on the day of the primary. Under the proposal. a political party could opt out of the limits and allow voters to switch on the day of the primary election.
“It’s not OK for somebody that’s outside your club, so to speak, to pick your membership for you,” said state Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester and the main sponsor of the legislation. “That’s a pretty good deal if you’re the minority party.”
Opponents say limiting when people can switch parties jeopardizes voters’ freedom to participate in Wyoming elections.
“At the end of the day, all of our citizens are entitled to one vote per person and that vote needs to be a meaningful vote,” said state Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie.
Similar legislation has failed in years past, but the idea has attracted more support this session after Republican national mega-donor Foster Friess finished second in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary and blamed the outcome on Democrats switching over to vote in the Republican primary.
Voter registration statistics show it’s unlikely that Democrats voting as Republicans gave the six-way GOP primary win to Mark Gordon, who is now governor after winning in November.
Still, state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne has said limiting the late party switching is the state GOP’s top-priority legislation this year.
By BOB MOEN
The Associated Press