February 19, 2021
As Wyoming lawmakers prepared to take up House Bill 75, legislation that would make it harder for voters to cast their ballots in the name of “preventing fraud,” ESPC convened a top-notch panel of voting rights and elections experts via Zoom for some real talk around election integrity.
First, let’s dispense with the “fraud” myth. As Linda Fritz, clerk of Crook County, Wyoming, noted, there are so many safeguards in place—from secure voting machines and bill transporting processes to ensuring that election judges are not the same people who serve as pollworkers, that it would be nearly impossible for someone with nefarious intent to meddle in an election. “In the state of Wyoming,” she said, “I’m not concerned about fraud.”
Susan Simpson, president of the League of Women Voters of Wyoming, has been an election judge for 23 years. “We do everything in pairs and we’re in different parties,” she said. “So it’s not a case of two people of the same party being able to cook the books in some way.”
The problem with the myth of voter fraud, said Sean Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center for Justice, is it encourages people to focus on a few scary-sounding things instead of asking ourselves what we could be doing better. (See HB75 above.) “The rhetoric of rampant voter fraud is really powerful. It appeals to people’s anxieties and fears and lets them point a finger at a bad actor. And, frankly, some politicians see it as a very convenient way to justify a loss.”
But the fact is that, thanks in large part to the integrity and dedication of county clerks like Fritz, Wyoming is already doing a good job at election security. (As we’ve noted before, our own secretary of state called our election “nearly flawless” just last month.)
So what should our goals be when it comes to voting and elections?
Think “F.A.S.T.E.R. elections,” said Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute and an architect of Colorado’s voter reforms that substantially increased voter turnout in that state. “Fair, accurate, secure, transparent, equitable, and reliable elections. All of those values matter equally, and election officials—like Linda and the 7,000 plus that run elections around the country—have to balance all of those values together.”
Unfortunately, she said, policymakers often propose bills that don’t balance all those values, choosing instead to focus on one value, such as security, at the expense of some or all of the others. She pointed to the fact that nationwide, 80 million eligible people didn’t vote in the 2020 election. That, she said, is the real challenge.
“In a healthy democracy we’re appealing to as many voters as possible,” said Morales-Doyle, “getting as many people to participate. We should really be bringing new people into the fold. Rather than appealing to our worst instincts, we could be making people feel that their votes do count and welcoming them to the conversation.”
Some of the best ways panelists cited to do that?
- automatic voter registration
- same-day voter registration
- no excuse absentee or mail-in ballots
- online voter registration
- more voting centers
- including county clerks and election officials in voter reforms
- robust civics education
Wyoming already checks some of these boxes, such as same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee ballots. But there’s plenty of room for improvement.
The upside of the false narratives around fraud? People are starting to get wise to it.
“There are a lot more voters for whom voting rights are a top issue now,” said Morales-Doyle. “This is a thing people care about. We have dozens of people showing up for a call like this to talk about this issues, and it’s happening all the time. We have a moment where there’s a possibility to get people energized around a more positive approach to our democracy.”
Take Action: Weigh in on House Bill 75 and let lawmakers know you oppose this bill.
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