CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Senate came to a literal even split on Wednesday, Feb. 19 during consideration of an amendment for an elections code revisions bill.
The amendment concerned voter identification rules, requiring some type of ID when a person votes. SF 20 revises registration requirement and election timelines; creates requirements for write-in candidates; allows notifications to be sent to write-in candidates by electronic means; amends complaint procedures for violations of the Election Code; expands limitations on campaign contributions; amends provisions relating to publishing notices of special district and formation elections; and modifies post voting procedures.
Sen. Bo Biteman, who introduced the amendment, told his fellow senators that it only made sense to add the voter ID amendment to this bill.
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“This was a very important topic to many of my constituents and people across the state,” he said. “I think it’s foolish to not require a person to show their ID when they go to vote. I have to show my ID when I get on a plane and for lots of reasons.”
He expected arguments to pop up against his bill, calling it discriminatory to elderly people, as many of them may not have a valid piece of identification. However, he knew it was a lawful amendment, as it had come from similar legislation established in Georgia.
“I know we’re going to hear that it’s an inconvenience for elderly people, but when the bill that kept them from getting opiates for their pain like they should have came up, I didn’t hear anything about discrimination then,” Biteman told the senators.
Sen. Dave Kinskey backed Biteman, stating his belief that the bill was a common sense one. By adding the amendment to the bill, Wyoming could be a leader among the states by creating a voter ID law.
Their sentiments weren’t shared by all of the legislators in the room.
Sen. Mike Gierau was one of them, stating that while he didn’t necessarily believe the bill was discriminatory or suppressing votes, he believed it was a waste of energy.
“When you register to vote, you sign a card that has an oath on it stating that you are who you say you are and these details about you are true,” he said. “I take that seriously, as has everyone in this room. I believe this amendment has good intentions, but we’re trying to crack down on a problem that isn’t there.
Other senators did express concern about how this would affect the elderly. Some even questioned whether it was non-germane (irrelevant) or even unconstitutional, although it was determined it was neither.
Still, the Senate came to a 50/50 split, with 15 senators voting “aye” to approve the amendment and 15 voting no. It didn’t pass the second reading, although SF 20 as a whole bill did.