Committee approves voter ID bill

CASPER — A state legislative committee advanced a bill Wednesday to impose a requirement for voters to show photo identification at the polls, all but guaranteeing it will pass when it goes to the floor next month.

Sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, the legislation has been floated several times in recent years, and has been unsuccessful in each case, failing by a narrow margin in the House of Representatives last year. This year’s version of the bill, however, has gained the support of 55 co-sponsors in the House and Senate amid escalating concerns from Republican voters following the 2020 presidential election, in which former President Donald Trump consistently pushed a false narrative that the election was “stolen” from him through massive voter fraud.

Ultimately, the bill passed the House Committee on Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions by a 6-3 vote, with Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan voicing his support of the bill as a “proactive” measure to increase voter confidence in the integrity of the state’s elections.

Voter fraud is exceedingly rare in Wyoming, with only four convictions in the past 40 years, according to a fraud database maintained by the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. However, Gail Symons – the founder of the organization Civics 307 – said that perception is reality, and there is an increasing group of people who think that the state does have an issue with election integrity.

“If this type of legislation will help bolster the feeling we probably do have the most appropriate and capable processes in the country,” she said, “then that alone makes it well worthwhile.”

Gray, in advocating for the bill, said that photo identification requirements could increase voter turnout by increasing voter confidence – citing declining voter participation in the Georgia runoffs. That decline occurred after numerous, unfounded allegations of voter fraud were amplified there by supporters of the president. Meanwhile, several who testified against the bill argued the bill could potentially disenfranchise voters unable to obtain a government ID while perpetuating concerns with election security that were already based on a false premise of rampant voter fraud.

While the bill has undergone numerous improvements – including an expanded definition of government identification that includes tribal identifications and Medicare cards – several argued the bill still had loopholes that could potentially marginalize voters over a non-existent concern over Wyoming’s election security.

“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” said Marguerite Herman with the Wyoming League of Women Voters, who opposed the bill.

Others said that the legislation could equate to a poll tax by requiring people to pay a fee to obtain government-issued identification.

“This bill by its very title implicitly impugns the intentions and actions of some voters even though there is no proof,” Chris Merrill, the executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, said in testimony on the bill.