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Vote By Mail Elections for Wyoming?

Written by Brooke Nisely

On September 15th the Joint Interim Corporations Committee met in Saratoga. One topic considered was changing the way Wyoming elections are administered by moving entirely to Vote By Mail (VBM) at the suggestion of the Wyoming County Clerks Association.

Currently three states conduct elections solely by mail (Oregon, Washington, and Colorado) and many have permanent VMB status as an option for voters. ESPC testified in favor of a VBM system because it increases voter turnout, simplifies the voting process, and because it saves taxpayer dollars.

A study conducted in 2003[1] on Oregon VBM resulted in significant results. The study found that 80.9% of individuals from every demographic prefer VBM. Women, the disabled, homemakers and those aged 26 to 38 reported to vote more often due to VBM. The study also indicated that VBM has no partisan advantage as a consequence of heightened voter turnout nor was there a difference between rural and urban voters.

In Washington[2], the former Secretary of State Sam Reed and current Secretary of State Kim Wyden, have take strong stances in support of VBM after a report was released in 2007. The report concluded that Washington’s VBM system boosted turnout, improved election accuracy and saved money.

A democracy operates at its full capacity with full citizen participation. Wyoming already has one of the most accessible legislatures in the country but we should be proactive in championing this Wyoming attribute. ESPC fully supports policies that allow maximum opportunity for civic engagement.

In addition to increased turnout and accessibility, VBM saves money and makes elections more affordable to administer. The Pew Center for States[3] found in two studies that if Colorado sent all registered voters ballots by mail they could cut cost by $1.05 per registered voter, and after the initial $1.5 million initial investment, Colorado would save $5 million over two fiscal years.

To review, Wyoming would benefit from a vote by mail system in three major ways: 

  • VBM would increase voter turnout,
  • make elections more accessible, and
  • save limited state and local resources.
At ESPC we believe in pushing our state government to better serve its citizens and we see VBM as a step forward to doing so.

The Joint Corporations Committee voted to not address VBM in the 2017 General Legislative Session and plans to return to the issue as an interim topic.

Additional Resources:

Wyoming County Clerks’ Association – Mail Ballot Election Pros and Cons
Wyoming County Clerks’ Association – Election Costs Survey Summary



[1]
http://www.prc.gov/docs/69/69897/Southwell%20Summary%20Report.pdf

[2] Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed. “Washington State’s Vote-By-Mail Experience.” 2007

[3] Cuciti, P. “Changing the Way Colorado Votes.” Pew Center on the States. 2012

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Citizens left out of the process

Jones: Citizens were left out of E. coli decision CasperStarTribune 8/21/15

Raise your hand if you knew about the state’s new E. coli plan before it was finalized. The Casper Star-Tribune recently reported that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, in one broad stroke, reclassified more than 76 percent of Wyoming’s streams from primary to secondary contact recreation. This means that roughly 88,000 stream miles are now allowed to have five times as much E. coli in them after very little public input from the people that use them most. This sweeping reclassification was years in the making but the fact is, almost none of us knew anything about it. Setting aside the merits of the decision, it’s apparent to the Equality State Policy Center that the DEQ failed to adequately reach out to the citizens and groups that would be most affected. While many conservation districts, which represent mainly agricultural users, were closely involved in the development of this plan, camping organizations, outfitter and guide services, and recreation groups were never notified. For example, in 2014 alone the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander led 121 expeditions into Wyoming’s mountains — and NOLS received no outreach from the DEQ. Gary Cukjati, Director of NOLS’ Rocky Mountain Branch, wrote to the EPA: “At no time…did DEQ contact NOLS, neither informing us of the existence of the process nor seeking comment on their decision, in spite of our being a significant commercial recreation user. It is our understanding that other outfitting operations were similarly unaware of the process.” He goes on to say that, as evidenced from the DEQ’s own record, “there was a notable lack of comments from the recreating public, who will ultimately bear the impacts of this decision.” What this means is, unless you stumbled upon one of two public notices buried in the classified section of this paper or caught one story in the Pinedale Roundup, you wouldn’t have known about the change. If it did cross your radar, you probably wouldn’t have understood the impact. For example, in a 30-second Wyoming Public Radio piece a DEQ spokesperson asserted the rule would only affect water bodies that flow occasionally. We now know that’s not at all the case; this decision reclassified scores of standing streams across Wyoming that are routinely used for recreation. A vigorous and open debate is what our country was founded on. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “…whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Our opportunity to participate in government and the management of our tax dollars, government agencies, and public assets is not and never should be limited to casting the occasional ballot. And the burden rightfully rests with elected leaders and public employees to deliberately cultivate a culture of openness and public access to government functions and decisions. It happens all too often that stakeholders and citizens are carelessly, and seemingly deliberately, left out of important decisions. Thankfully, in this instance, the DEQ has the opportunity to revisit this sweeping decision and re-open the process to allow for more comprehensive participation of Wyoming’s citizens and interested recreation groups. And we are calling on the DEQ to do so with earnestness and intent. The leaders we elect and employ must be thoughtful about public engagement. We shouldn’t have to be outraged or go to court to be heard. Good public policy should be crafted, debated, and enacted in the sunshine and this recent stream reclassification is no exception. Brianna Jones is the executive director of the Equality State Policy Center. The ESPC is a Wyoming fiscal and good-government watchdog organization.
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