ESPC July Wrap-Up

July 31, 2020

As this unprecedented public health emergency continues to unfold, we’re also set to participate in pivotal elections in Wyoming and across the nation. ESPC’s work—to ensure fair elections, maintain transparent government, and cultivate thriving communities—is more vital than ever. 

We feel fortunate to get to do this work on behalf of everyone in Wyoming. We’re energized by our state and national partners including the Brennan Center for Justice, Vote at Home Institute, RepresentWomen, Community Catalyst, League of Women Voters, Wyoming Hospital Association, Wyoming Medical Society, Wyoming Education Association, Wyoming Women’s Foundation, National Public Pension Coalition, and many more. 

We’ve been busy behind the scenes and with state and local government and media as we work to bring the brightest voices and most vibrant perspectives to Wyoming in an effort to change the conversation around who and what Wyoming can be. Read on to learn what we’ve been up to over the last month. 

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the fossil fuel industry has screeched to a halt and the nation is facing a severe economic recession. At the state level, huge budget shortfalls are already upon us—just as Wyoming’s tax base continues to shrink by the day. 

If we don’t adapt and change the way we do things, Wyoming’s way of life could soon become a relic of the past.

We believe wholeheartedly that Wyoming can emerge from these crises with a viable modern economy with a robust democracy that serves all of us. 

But it will take some work.

Despite the challenges we face, I remain hopeful. Wyoming is still the kind of place where the efforts of a few committed people can have a real impact.

Thanks to you, the Equality State Policy Center has momentum, an achievable vision, and more capacity than we’ve ever had. 

I’m also thankful to you for your support of and dedication to ESPC’s mission. I believe that by working together, we can chart a better way forward for Wyoming.


Chris Merrill, Executive Director

Spotlight Project: July 

The Gender Lens Project took center stage this month to celebrate the past, present, and future of women’s suffrage. 

We kicked off our first online RUN Wyoming candidate training. Featuring all women as panelists, moderators, and experts, the well attended six-part series launched July 3 and has been going strong all month. Women from across the state have come together weekly to listen, learn, and prepare to lead. 

Auditor Kristi Racines, former Majority Floor Leader Rosie Berger, former State Senator Bernadine Craft, and former Minority Floor Leader Mary Throne are among the women leaders and experts participating in RUN Wyoming in July and August.

We supplemented the RUN series with the People’s Review: Live!, our monthly online civic engagement program. July’s event focused on women’s suffrage, voter access, and women’s representation, and featured a stellar lineup of women leaders, including Wyoming’s own Rep. Andi Clifford (HD33) and Marguerite Herman of the Wyoming League of Women Voters.

Notes from the Team 

On fair elections 

We were pleased that the Secretary of State’s office responded to our request that all registered Wyoming voters be sent an absentee ballot request form. ESPC continues to educate voters about how to vote safely in upcoming elections. 

On transparency

In response to our request for greater transparency around Wyoming’s purchase of five million acres of land and minerals from Occidental Petroleum, Governor Gordon’s office has verbally agreed to follow our recommendations to hold informational public meetings around the state should the Wyoming’s bid be successful. 

The management council of the Legislature implemented a number of our transparency recommendations ahead of their special session in May, including live-streaming the session and all subsequent committee meetings.

We were also pleased that the joint judiciary committee responded favorably to our proposal that it take up, as an interim topic, improvements to the Ethics and Disclosure law around conflicts of interest.

On thriving communities

As part of our ongoing commitment to racial and gender justice, our staff and board are participating in diversity, equity, and inclusion work with Rev. Hannah Villnave. ESPC’s statement on our commitment to racial justice is available here.

Around the office

In early July Stefani Farris  joined the ESPC staff as a part-time development and communications writer. Stefani has worked for a number of nonprofits in Lander and Laramie, most recently as the associate director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. 

In the News 

On fair elections

On transparent government

  • Casper Star Tribune: Reviving the Ethics Conversation
    • “Looking back to the 2020 Legislative Session, Chris Merrill – executive director for the nonpartisan Equality State Policy Center – recalled a hallway conversation with a longtime observer of Wyoming politics on a vote that had just wrapped up.”

On thriving communities

  • WyoFile: In budget talks, Gov highlights cuts to programs for vulnerable
    • “People, lawmakers included, tend to focus on their own experiences, Simon said. A state leadership dominated by well-off men is, as such, quicker to cut programs that hit women or the most vulnerable, she said, because it’s harder for them to imagine the harm.”

Mark Your Calendar

  • August 3 Lessons Learned on the Campaign Trail with Auditor Kristi Racines, former Majority Floor Leader Rosie Berger, former Minority Floor Leader Mary Throne, former State Senator Bernadine Kraft
  • August 10 Campaign Finance 101 with Kate Debow Hayes, Albany County Treasurer Jackie Gonzales, Sen. Tara Nethercott, and special guests
  • August 11 Mail your absentee ballots!
  • August 18 Primary Election
  • August 19 Wyoming Retirement Coalition Webinar
  • August 20 People’s Review: Live! Wyoming’s Budget & The Future of Small Towns

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