Over 3,997,732 readers this year!

Wyoming House looks to require ID at the polls, exclude student, out-of-state IDs

Staff prepare mail-in and early ballots for the tabulation machine at the Natrona County Courthouse in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming House of Representatives passed House Bill 75 on first reading on Monday, March 1 which would require people to show identification when voting at the polls.

At question is which forms of identification would be acceptable should the legislation become law.

Rep. Chuck Gray (Natrona County) argued against allowing three types of identification during the House’s debate:

  • student photos IDs issued by the University of Wyoming, community colleges or Wyoming public schools
  • driver’s licenses or ID cards issued in other states or outlying U.S. possessions
  • tribal IDs issued by the governing body of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, Northern Arapaho tribe or other federally recognized tribes

These are three types of identification that the House debated amending House Bill 75 to allow for voter identification purposes during Monday’s floor session.

Gray said that student IDs shouldn’t be allowed since foreign nationals are able to obtain such IDs, though he acknowledged a foreign national would be committing fraud if they attempted to vote regardless of whether Wyoming has such a voter ID law in place.

Rep. Evan Simpson (Lincoln County) said that while it is important to encourage young people to vote, allowing student ID would make it “very easy” for out-of-state residents attending UW “to walk into a polling place and swing elections.”

“That’s what we do not want,” Simpson said.

Gray said that out-of-state driver’s license or IDs shouldn’t be allowed because that could allow someone to drive into Wyoming from out of state to vote.

Rep. Art Washut (Natrona) also argued against allowing out-of-state IDs since fake IDs are available via the internet. Simpson agreed and said that people working at the polls would have difficulty recognizing a fraudulent out-of-state ID.

Simpson added that people who had recently moved to Wyoming could still rely on a passport to vote or could get another form of ID which would be allowed.

Speaker of the House Eric Barlow (Campbell, Converse) noted that someone willing to vote fraudulently could also get a fake Wyoming ID. In addition, the legislation as proposed wouldn’t require that a person show a current Wyoming ID, so Barlow questioned the logic behind prohibiting out-of-state IDs versus in-state IDs since he understood the purpose of the legislation to be a verification of someone’s identity rather than their residency.

“How can a valid ID from any other state be less informative than one that is completely out of date and has void stamped through it and is weather [worn]?” he asked. “Something that is stamped void and 40 years old all of a sudden is valid?”

Rep. Mike Yin also questioned why out-of-state ID shouldn’t be allowed if someone has moved to the state.

“I’m confused on why we would not allow people who have moved to Wyoming to participate in our elections if they are a valid citizen and a valid resident,” he said.

Yin added that the proposed legislation would added an additional hurdle for people who want to vote when Wyoming hasn’t reported any significant voter fraud.

“Why would we put another burden between the voter and the voting booth?” he asked “Is it just a response to what is happening on the national level?”

“Do you believe our elections are insecure to the point that we need to add another barrier to voting?…If voting integrity isn’t a problem in our state, what are we doing this for?”

Under current Wyoming law, people sign an oath that they are a U.S. citizen and resident of Wyoming when registering to vote and are required to provide either:

  • One of the following forms of ID:
    • U.S. Passport
    • Out-of-State DL
    • Military ID
    • ID Card issued by local, state, or federal agency
    • WY Student ID
    • Tribal ID
  • Two or more of the following:
    • Certificate of US citizenship or naturalization
    • Draft record
    • VR Card from out-of-state
    • Original or certified copy of birth certificate
    • Any other form of ID issued by official agency

The following forms of ID would be allowed for people voting at the polls under House Bill 75:

  • A Wyoming driver’s license as defined by W.S. 31‑7‑102(a)(xxv)
  • A tribal identification card that meets the requirements of W.S. 22‑3‑103(a)(vi)(B)
  • A Wyoming identification card issued under W.S. 31‑8‑101
  • A valid United States passport
  • A United States military card
  • A valid Medicare insurance card (wouldn’t be valid after Dec. 31, 2029)

Gray noted that the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office, the AARP and the Wyoming County Clerk’s Association had been consulted while the bill was being drafted.

While he acknowledged that officials in Wyoming haven’t reported problems with voter fraud, he said the legislation would “ensure confidence in our elections.”

“This is about ensuring our state’s place as the gold standard of the country and making sure our state believes in our elections which is essential,” Gray said.

Barlow questioned some other inconsistencies in the forms of ID which would be accepted since some are photo IDs and some are not (Medicare insurance card). Gray said that the Medicare card as a form of accepted ID was proposed by the AARP to accommodate older citizens.

Barlow also asked why the term “valid” was used to describe some forms of ID in the proposed legislation, while this term was absent when listing other forms that would be accepted.

“Who determines the validation of that at the polls?” he asked. Barlow noted that he still has his military ID from many years ago and wondered whether that would be accepted under the proposed legislation.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (Laramie County) said that the County Clerks Association had testified that under the draft bill, they would consider a document like an expired passport as acceptable.

Zwonitzer proposed the amendment which would allow out-of-state, tribal IDs (other than only tribal ID authorized under legislation passed in 2020) and student IDs to be acceptable for voter identification in Wyoming.

He noted that all these forms of ID would be photo IDs, unlike the Medicaid card.

Gray moved to divide Zwonitzer’s amendment to allow the House to debate the three forms of ID seperately.

The House rejected the amendment allowing both student and out-of-state IDs but adopted the amendment allowing tribal IDs defined more broadly than initially contemplated under the draft legislation.

Gray argued against accepting older forms of tribal ID which don’t show the person’s social security number.

Rep. Lloyed Larsen (Fremont County) said that new tribal voting IDs in line with legislation which the legislature passed in 2020 haven’t seen much adoption and that the legislature should “be careful that we don’t become too restrictive.”

He argued in favor of Zwonitzer’s amendment which would allow people to rely on older forms of tribal ID which don’t show social security numbers or the person’s Wyoming driver’s license number on the cards.

“We want people to vote,” Larsen said.

House Minority Floor Leader Cathy Connolly said that the tribal ID for voting legislation passed in 2020 was done to ensure people had that as a means to vote.

“We wanted to assure that our tribal members had access to the polls like everyone else,” she said.

Gray said that allowing other forms of tribal ID besides what followed the 2020 legislation was concerning because it could allow tribal IDs from out-of-state tribes be used for voting identification in Wyoming.

Yin asked if Gray could elaborate on that point, but Gray declined.

Rep. Steve Harshman (Natrona) offered a seperate amendment to re-title the bill which was initially called “Voter fraud-prevention” to “Voter identification.”

“My amendment just changes the name of the bill,” he said. “We’re not suggesting that anybody is doing anything wrong….If you talk to the clerks, there is no fraud going on.”

Harshman said that the legislation was not about stopping fraud but rather about ensuring the strength of Wyoming’s election system.

“Wyoming’s got a great system,” he said. “We want to keep it great.”

The House adopted this amendment to change the name of the bill. The House also passed the bill on first reading Monday.

House Majority Floor Leader Albert Sommers is expected to offer an amendment on second reading which would allow people to obtain Wyoming IDs without paying the $10 fee if they are getting the ID for the purpose of voting.

Related