Group marches in Sheridan, reminds citizens to stay abreast of election law changes

SHERIDAN — In light of continued allegations of voter fraud during the 2020 election, the Wyoming Legislature, like many state governments, is rethinking some of its election statutes.

The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee is set to consider five of those potential bills, along with ongoing redistricting conversations, in Sheridan County later this week.

With all this on the horizon, there may not have been a better time for 40 county residents to participate in the “March On for Voting Rights” event in front of the Sheridan County Courthouse Saturday. Event participants were clear in their insistence any changes to local voting laws or voting districts shouldn’t create obstacles or unreasonable limitations on anyone’s ability to vote.

“We cannot go back to when all mail-in balloting is restrained, tabulating machines are shuttered, drop boxes for working people are gone and the disabled and infirm cannot be accommodated with curbside assistance,” speaker Rob Davidson said at the event.

The local event, organized by the Sheridan County Democrats, was part of a national effort to raise awareness of “systemic discrimination at the ballot box,” according to the March On For Voting Rights website. 

Nationally, the event was organized by civil rights activist Martin Luther King III, on the 58th anniversary of his father’s historic March on Washington where the elder King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and spoke out against systemic racial discrimination in America.

Sheridan was the only city in Wyoming, and only one of a handful in the Mountain West, to hold a March On for Voting Rights event, according to the event website.

“When I learned about this event, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Sheridan County Democrats chair Danielle Arnoux said. “But, even though the Democrats organized this, we strongly believe this isn’t a partisan issue. Republicans should care about voting rights. Independents should care about voting rights. Because, at the end of the day, this impacts everybody.”

According to materials handed out at the event, 48 states have introduced 389 bills that “suppress voting methods that enrich our representative democracy.” These range from banning ballot drop boxes to reducing early voting hours to restricting who can receive a mail-in ballot.

These bills have been introduced in the wake of former President Donald J. Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.Trump’s campaign and his allies have filed dozens of lawsuits alleging widespread voting fraud, with the majority being dismissed or dropped.

Locally, the efforts to rethink the state’s election laws take many forms. 

One draft bill allows any voter to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, during a primary election. Another seeks to institute ranked choice voting in primary and general elections. In ranked-choice voting, voters are allowed to rank candidates for an office by preference and without regard to political party affiliation.

Another bill draft authorizes the preparation and processing of absentee ballots prior to an election.

Another two bill drafts create a runoff election after a primary election when no candidate receives a majority of the vote. 

A similar bill, brought forth by Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Parkman, was narrowly defeated by the Wyoming Senate earlier this year.

In addition to all these bills, there will also be ongoing discussions about redistricting. 

After every 10-year census count, state governments take on the task of redistricting, or redrawing the maps that determine who will represent a given area.

Arnoux said the Democrats aren’t necessarily opposed to any of these local efforts as long as they don’t impact voter access to the polls. More than anything, the local March On for Voting Rights event was intended as a reminder for local citizens to stay abreast of local election laws and to raise their voices if they feel something unfair or inequitable is happening.

“Pay attention to what our legislators are doing, and raise your voice if you have concerns,” Arnoux said. “It can be so easy to just look the other way when looking at something complicated like voting laws, but it’s important to be involved and to learn about the legislation being proposed, because it could affect all of us.”

Arnoux encouraged all Sheridan County residents interested in local voting laws to attend the next meeting of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, which will meet in Sheridan on Thursday and Friday. Discussion of various election bills is set to begin at 8:10 a.m. on Thursday, while redistricting conversations will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Friday. The meeting can also be live streamed from the Wyoming Legislature’s YouTube page.