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Wyoming Senate add Medicaid cards to bill requiring voter ID at the polls

A voter casts his ballot during early voting at the Natrona County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. Lines of voters stretched through two floors of the building and, earlier in the day, outside to the parking lot. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Senate undertook their consideration of House Bill 75 this week, legislation which would require people to show photo identification when voting at the polls.

The Senate amended the legislation on first reading on Tuesday to add Medicaid insurance cards to the list of acceptable forms of ID. This type of identification would only be valid for voting purposes until Dec. 31, 2029.

With the bill as amended, the following forms of ID would be accepted:

  • A Wyoming driver’s license as defined by W.S. 31‑7‑102(a)(xxv)
  • A tribal identification card issued by the governing body of the Eastern Shoshone tribe of Wyoming, the Northern Arapaho tribe of Wyoming or other federally recognized Indian tribe
  • A Wyoming identification card issued under W.S. 31‑8‑101
  • A valid United States passport
  • A United States military card
  • A valid Medicare or Medicaid insurance card (wouldn’t be valid after Dec. 31, 2029)
  • A driver’s license or identification card issued by any state or outlying possession of the United States
  • Photo identification issued by the University of Wyoming, a Wyoming community college or a Wyoming public school

Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskell (Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskell) noted that the bill would allow people who don’t show a voter ID before voting at the polls to still cast a provisional ballot, giving them an extra day to present documentation of their eligibility to vote in the state.

He added that the legislation would allow people to obtain Wyoming ID cards at no cost if they are getting the ID for the purpose of voting.

After adopting the amendment and passing the bill on first reading on Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill without further amendment on second reading on Wednesday. They would need to adopt the bill on one further reading in order for the legislation to pass the Senate.

Should the Senate pass the bill on third reading, it would return to the House who would need to decide whether to concur to amendments adopted in the Senate.

The proposed legislation faced some criticism while it moved through the House of Representatives where is ultimately passed on a 51-9 third reading vote on March 8. Rep. Andi Clifford (Fremont County) said during the House’s third reading debate of House Bill 75 that the legislation would disenfranchise voters.

“What this bill does is pose a real threat to our democracy,” Clifford said. “I don’t want to be the first Northern Arapaho woman and the last to serve in this body.”

“I think when you look at how our election structure works, we need to do everything in our power to encourage voting, especially with our young people, our new people, our people of color and those less fortunate. The bill doesn’t encourage that. We want more people to participate, not less. By passing this bill, it unequivocally equates to voter suppression and imposes a restriction on voting access.”

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (Laramie County) said ahead of the House’s third reading vote that he didn’t think the bill would disenfranchise any voters thanks to amendments the House adopted on second reading.

While the bill initially proposed eliminating out-of-state driver’s licenses and student IDs as an accepted form of identification for voting, the House adopted an amendment that would allow these forms of ID to continue to be accepted.

The House also adopted an amendment that would would allow people to obtain Wyoming IDs without paying the $10 fee if they are getting the ID for the purpose of voting.

Zwonitzer said that there is “an ideological political culture war going on” around the issue of voter identification around the country but that he didn’t think the Wyoming bill was part of that debate.

“I don’t believe this suppresses anyone,” he said. “I may have agreed with that before the second reading amendments.”

Rep. Chuck Gray (Natrona) said he supports the legislation because “it is important that we continue our election processes to ensure public confidence and the more confidence people have the more they will participate. That’s what we all want. This is a best practices issue.”

Rep. Karlee Provenza (Albany County) said that she thought the bill was looking to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

“We don’t have a problem to go with this ‘solution,’” she said. “We’re also a state that prides itself on being different than the rest of the country. We’re a state that prides itself on doing what’s best for our communities and moving forward the Wyoming way.”

“But without a problem to solve or a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, we’re jumping on a bandwagon for no real reason.”

Rep. Evan Simpson (Lincoln County) said he thought the bill should have advanced without the amendments allowing out-of-state driver’s licenses and student IDs. However, he said he supports the idea of requiring photo IDs at the polls.

“I think we would all agree that our world has become very complicated,” Simpson The good old boy way of doing things has unfortunately gone by the wayside in many regards.”

He said that people are used to being asked to show their IDs in other situations such as at the airport or when buying cigarettes.

“This is standard practice in our society anymore…..It just makes sense that we conform with the rest of the world in proving our identity,” Simpson said.

Rep. John Eklund (Laramie, Goshen) said that while he doesn’t think there is voter fraud in Wyoming, he still supported the legislation.

“In recent years, we’ve found that there has been little, if any, fraud,” he said. “I really trust our election officials. I think they are really straightforward and honest.”

Rep. Robert Wharff (Uinta) said that he thinks Wyoming should lead by passing the legislation.

“We’ve led the nation several times,” he said. “Look at women’s suffrage. That’s something Wyoming is very proud of and we should be proud of that. And I think this is a similar situation. I think we lead by example.”

“We don’t have a problem, I don’t believe, in our state. That doesn’t mean it can’t come here.”

Rep. Steve Harshman (Natrona) said that he thinks many people go to the polls for the first time assuming they’ll need to show ID.

“As a kid in Wyoming when I first voted, I was kind of surprised I didn’t need ID when I voted,” he said, adding that students he works with have expressed similar surprise.

He said that with the legislation as amended, he thought the state’s voter ID requirements would be in “a good spot.”

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