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Wyoming voids 28% of its voter registrations in mandatory purge

While it’s not unusual for voter rolls to fluctuate, local election officials want residents to know that anyone who didn’t vote in the 2022 general election must register again to vote in 2024.

Election judge Kay Kellner, who is seen behind a sneeze guard, works Aug. 11, 2020 helping people register to vote or cast early or absentee ballots in the Fremont County Courthouse. (Katie Klingsporn/WyoFile)

by Maggie Mullen, WyoFile

Thousands of Wyoming residents could be surprised on Election Day when they show up to cast a ballot only to discover they’re no longer registered to vote. 

There are currently about 83,500 fewer registered voters in the state than at the end of 2022, a roughly 28% drop, according to data released Wednesday by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office.

The sizable dip follows a mandatory voter purge that was likely magnified by a major shift in voter turnout between the 2020 and 2022 elections.

Wyoming law has long required county clerks to purge voter rolls each February, a process that involves removing voters who did not cast a ballot in the most recent election. So it’s not unusual for voter rolls to fluctuate. And, of course, some of that purge inevitably includes voters who have died or moved away. 

Still, local election officials and nonprofit organizations are hoping to inform voters ahead of time to avoid frustration or having to turn them away at the polls. 

“Our concern is simply people not realizing that they’re no longer registered and not bringing with them the appropriate materials to get re-registered, because you can register at the polls,” Tom Lacock with AARP told WyoFile. 

While a Wyoming driver’s license or ID card, a United States passport, a tribal ID card, a U.S. military card and some student IDs would be sufficient identification to register and to vote, other forms of identification would not. 

A Medicare or Medicaid insurance card, or a Wyoming concealed firearm permit, for example, would not allow someone to register to vote, but are acceptable IDs for already registered voters to cast a ballot. 

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Chuck Gray said the provision requiring the purge has been in state law for more than 50 years. 

“Voter roll hygiene and voter registry maintenance is extremely important to maintaining integrity and confidence in our electoral process,” he wrote in a statement to WyoFile. 

Details

All 23 of Wyoming’s counties have experienced a decrease in registered voters since December 2022, according to the data. 

Campbell County saw the biggest drop, losing 34% of its voter registrations, while the smallest decrease was recorded in Hot Springs County at 17%. 

Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee pointed to a very high turnout in 2020 as one cause for the decline.  

“And so our voter rolls were large. And then in 2022, we had record low turnout [in the general election],” Lee told WyoFile, which fits the convention that presidential elections draw more voters than the midterms.

“That’s why we ended up with so many people who were purged,” Lee said. 

As is routine, Wyoming’s county clerks mailed notifications to the last known addresses of those who were set to be dropped from the voter rolls in 2023. This gave voters the opportunity to notify the clerk if they wanted to remain registered. 

Thousands ended up purged anyway. 

That included many who voted in 2022’s primary election, but not the general — which squares with another typical voting trend. The majority of races in Wyoming are effectively decided in August due to the state’s Republican supermajority.

Lacock said AARP is encouraging voters to contact their local county clerks to verify that they’re still registered, or ask any questions related to other changes to this year’s election. 

The window for absentee voting — also known as early voting — is shorter than before for most voters, and there’s a new limit on when voters can affiliate with a political party. 

The primary election is Aug. 20. Voter registration is now open. The last day registered voters can change their party affiliation is May 15. Unregistered voters, like those recently purged, can choose their party affiliation while registering, even if doing so after May 15, including at the polls on election day.

The candidate filing period runs May 16-31.


This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.


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