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ESPC & ACLU: Cease-and-Desist Unconstitutional Policy Discriminating Against Wyoming Voters

CHEYENNE, WY – The Equality State Policy Center (ESPC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) delivered a cease-and-desist letter to Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray on Friday morning urging him to immediately end the discriminatory and unconstitutional policy of suspending the right to vote for an unknown number of Wyoming citizens. 

 The letter highlights the discriminatory practice by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, which violates both the United States Constitution and Wyoming Statute. It quotes the 2014 ruling McCutcheon v. FEC saying, “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders…” and the 2006 case Boustani v. Blackwell asserting,There is no such thing as a second-class citizen or a second-class American.”

“Every eligible Wyomingite that wants to vote, should be able to,” said Bri Jones with the Equality State Policy Center. “We’ve set up a Voter Hotline at (307) 314-2258. Anyone that encounters a problem casting a ballot early, absentee, or on Election Day should call the hotline immediately.”

Voters can cast ballots early at their County Clerk’s office or on Election Day next Tuesday, November 8th from 7 AM – 7 PM. A polling place locator and additional information can be found at

The full letter can be accessed here.

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Wind River Native Advocacy Group Joins Equality State Policy Center

WRNAC-Capitol The Wind River Native Advocacy Center (WRNAC) joined as a coalition member of the Equality State Policy Center (ESPC) in late April. “We’re delighted to have WRNAC as a coalition partner. They are doing needed and valuable work to inform and empower the citizens of the Wind River Indian Reservation,” said Brianna Jones, ESPC Executive Director. Formed in 2014, WRNAC is a not-for-profit, which seeks to empower Native Americans in Wyoming and focuses on reducing disparities in health, education, and income and in building racial equality and cultural understanding throughout the state. The WRNAC website is “We joined the ESPC so that we could have a stronger voice to educate the State of Wyoming about our unique roles as being both Wyoming and sovereign tribal nation citizens as it affects our health, economy and schools,” said Clarisse Harris on behalf of the WRNAC.  “We look forward to working in coalition with other Wyoming organizations through the ESPC to exercise our equal rights to be heard by the Wyoming State Legislature.” Over the past several years, ESPC has worked in communities on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Citizen Lobbyist Training is a signature ESPC program that trains citizens to become effective advocates. ESPC is expanding the program into communities across Wyoming. “In collaboration with our newest member, we’ll bring Citizen Lobbyist Training back to the Wind River Indian Reservation and surrounding communities,” mentioned Jones. “It’s a powerful program that gives citizens the tools they need to effectively advocate for themselves and their community.” The ESPC is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of 30 Wyoming organizations working to build civic engagement and advocating for accessible government, transparent and equitable tax policy, and on behalf of working Wyomingites.
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Digital Privacy Task Force

Can Wyo protect personal data in techno era?

Digital privacy task force faces broad scope of work

Witnesses testify via Google Hangout; next meeting may be streamed

This week the Wyoming Legislature’s Task Force on Digital Information Privacy decided to develop legislation that will require the state and local public agencies to protect private data of Wyoming residents that the agencies hold in electronic formats. The new Task Force, which held its first meeting in Casper June 19, also decided to develop standards regulating law enforcement’s access to a person’s electronic data, including possibly requiring a warrant to search an electronic device confiscated in an arrest. The task force also agreed to review two pieces of legislation that failed in the 2014 session but were assigned as interim topics to the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee. One of those measures aims to establish the privacy rights of employees who use company-owned electronic devices – such as protecting social media or bank account passwords – while fairly assuring an employer the right to make certain a company-owned device is used appropriately by a worker. Technology has developed so rapidly that federal and state laws simply are not keeping up, according to a representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties in the digital world. In the meeting, the first testimony was from one of the task force’s own members. Flint Waters, the chief information officer for Wyoming’s Department of Enterprise Technology Services, outlined current state practices for handling data and noted they are based on administrative decisions rather being spelled out in law. The state, he said, needs to develop standards so its management of personal data will not depend upon the person who holds his position. He noted Microsoft officials compare the current tide of data “to the raindrop” while the next decade will flood society with “the ocean” of data. The EFF’s Adi Kamdar suggested there may be a need for an independent agency to oversee use of data and technology, such as automated license plate readers and facial recognition technology that when combined can reveal great detail about any person’s life and daily activities. Carl Szabo of NetChoice, a trade association that includes some of the biggest operators on the Internet, including eBay, PayPal, AOL, and Google, said the task force should learn first what laws already exist to protect consumers from fraud and other perils, and how users can employ existing technological services and tools to protect their private data themselves. He said policymakers should be more concerned about the use of information rather than the collection of information. The task force includes four legislators and four people appointed by the executive branch. Sen. Chris Rothfuss is chairman. At the end of the meeting, Sen. Cale Case said his greatest concern was the situation noted by Waters. “The state does not have an affirmative obligation to protect the information we do have,” he said. He and other task force members agreed that developing language to impose such obligation should be a high priority. With cooperation from Waters’ agency and LSO, the meeting Thursday was considered a “Beta test” of using technology such as Google Hangout to bring witnesses to the meeting. Kamdar spoke from San Francisco. Szabo said he was in an airport lounge. And committee member Even Brande, president of Handel Information Technologies, Inc. of Laramie, likewise was traveling. Brande testified via broadband  about his company’s methods of protecting the personal data of state social services clients. Rothfuss said it may be possible to make the next meeting available to the public via live streaming. The task force will meet in Lander July 31 and August 1. The location remains virtual at this point.
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Tension over EPA, Wind River Reservation boundary

Wisconsin groups dispute tribal authority, fuel fire

ESPC  report addresses questions about Indian Country law

Tribes scorn revival of assimilation and termination ideas

The Equality State Policy Center moved this week to provide objective information about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determination that Riverton and other lands lie within the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation. The EPA determination has been challenged by the State of Wyoming and others. Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming congressional delegation claim the EPA exceeded its authority when it made the decision. The decision and subsequent comments by local leaders in Fremont County stirred political and racial Fremont County. When a Wisconsin group – identified in 1994 as a “hate group,” according to the Casper Star-Tribune – announced plans for a workshop and conference June 13 and 14 in Riverton, Wind River tribal leaders quickly responded. They went to the news media with assertions that the groups, the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) and the Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF), use bigoted language and misrepresent the historic treaties and federal law that establish the legal framework under which tribal nations operate. “CERA’s dangerous ideas hark back to deeply harmful United States policies promoting Native American assimilation and termination of tribes and reservations,” Dean Goggles, who sits on the Northern Arapaho Business Council, told the Associated Press. The ESPC has compiled a report explaining the administrative and legal process that produced the boundary determination and answering other questions about its effects on people living in the disputed area. Titled “The Wind River Reservation Boundary Dispute – Some Facts,” the report uses a question-and-answer format to help explain the matter. The report notes that in 2008, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes jointly filed an application with the EPA for “Treatment as a State” (TAS) under the Clean Air Act. As part of the process, federal law required the EPA to determine whether the 1905 opening of 171,000 acres of reservation land to white settlement extinguished the reservation status of the land. On Dec. 13, 2013, the EPA approved the Tribes’ TAS status. It also issued an 83-page legal analysis concluding that the 171,000-acre area remains part of the reservation. The EPA decision is under appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Judicial District.

Wisconsin groups oppose tribal sovereignty

Unfortunately, tensions have been heightened by CERA and CERF, two groups known for their opposition to tribal sovereignty. Leaders of CER and CERF routinely distort facts about tribal sovereignty, according to Borderlands Research and Education (BRE), a Washington state group that tracks “anti-Indianism.” A recently released Borderlands bulletin lists a number of CERA/CERF distortions of the legal status of tribes and their treaty rights. You can read the Bulletin here.
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Felon voting rights restoration reviewed

Judiciary Committee eyes felon voting rights

Current law requires five-year wait after completing sentence

Parole Board wants restoration decision shifted to ‘ministerial function’

The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee will address Wyoming’s handling of the restoration of felon voting rights this year. The panel’s chairman called for the drafting of two pieces of legislation focusing on the issue during a meeting in Rawlins Tuesday, May 13. The Equality State Policy Center supports restoration of felon voting rights. We believe that punishment should end upon
Sen. John Schiffer Chairs Senate Judiciary Committee

Sen. John Schiffer
Chairs Senate Judiciary Committee

completion of sentencing requirements. Moreover, research has found that formerly incarcerated people are far less likely to commit another crime if they have their rights AND vote. Historically, stripping convicted felons of voting rights was one of the techniques used in the South to prevent African-Americans from voting. Mike Krampner, formerly an attorney in Wyoming and a Friend of the ESPC, asserts that it has nothing whatever to do with a person’s integrity or fitness to vote. It’s important to simplify the restoration of rights. The state should adopt procedures used in other states that restore the rights automatically when a sentence is completed and a person convicted of a felony no longer is under the supervision of the state. The committee wants to make the process more practical. Committee Co-Chairman John Schiffer, R-SD22, Kaycee, directed the Legislative Service Office (LSO) to draft a bill to remove the restoration authority from the Wyoming Parole Board. Parole Board member Doug Chamberlain (a former House speaker) said the decision to restore rights is based purely on facts and does not require a judgment of character. The board simply assesses whether the candidate meets the requirements for restoring rights as spelled out in state statutes. That’s a “ministerial decision,” Chamberlain said, and does not require the judgment of the board’s members. The second bill Chairman Schiffer asked LSO to draft will address qualifications for restoration of voting rights. Presently the state requires that: the convicted person must have been guilty of a non-violent felony or felonies related to a single incident; must successfully complete all sentencing requirements; and must wait five years. DOC Director Bob Lampert said prisoners are given packets that note their ability to have their rights restored after the five-year wait. But people forget and the former prisoners often cannot be found to remind them, he said. Schiffer said the new law should restore rights automatically to prisoners on the day of release. The restoration of rights should not be extended to people convicted of committing felonies in two or more incidents. Sen. Bruce Burns, R-SD21, Sheridan, said the draft law should be modeled after Wyoming’s felony expungement statute that allows expungement of drug-related felonies as well. The ESPC agrees that the ministerial responsibility should be placed with the Department of Corrections (DOC). The department holds the prisoner’s records. The new statutes also should require restoration of rights automatically upon completion of sentencing. The DOC can assess a felon’s record on the date of release from prison or parole and determine whether the felon meets the basic qualifications.  
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