2020 Election

Sheridan voters form a line to submit their ballots at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

CASPER — For three consecutive sessions, Wyoming lawmakers have contemplated some form of voter identification bill, rejecting last year’s version without a hearing on the floor.

Casper Republican Rep. Chuck Gray — who fell just two votes short of passing one out of the House of Representatives in 2019 — hopes the third time will be the charm.

Earlier this month, Gray filed his latest attempt at voter fraud prevention. Once a divisive and controversial bill among lawmakers, Gray’s legislation this year has attracted 40 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and half of the 30-member Wyoming Senate.

The number of co-sponsors almost assuredly guarantees that Wyoming will become the 37th state nationwide with a voter identification law when the body reconvenes in person later this year, a marked difference from the close tally that killed Gray’s original bill in 2019.

“The overwhelming number of cosponsors on this year’s Voter ID bill shows the extraordinary level of support that we have to pass this measure,” Gray wrote in an emailed statement to the Star-Tribune. “We have a great opportunity to pass voter ID in Wyoming in this year’s General Session. This is something that the citizens of Wyoming want.”

So what changed?

In 2019, Gray’s bill centered on voters needing to present a government-issued photo identification card, a proposal critics said could potentially disenfranchise the elderly as well as enrolled members of the Northern Arapaho or Eastern Shoshone Tribes — groups that may not have photo identification or might have difficulty obtaining photo IDs.

According to numbers presented by AARP Wyoming in a Friday briefing on the bill, one in five Americans over the age of 65 no longer have a valid driver’s license. That fact could potentially disenfranchise a sizable number of senior citizens in Wyoming who are unable to travel to the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain an alternative form of identification.

As it turns out, photo identification is not a necessity to verify one’s identity. Four years ago, the Republican-controlled West Virginia Legislature passed a voter identification bill that allowed voters to use any form of government-issued identification when certifying themselves at the polls, including social security cards and Medicare membership cards, in exchange for automatic voter registration — a provision West Virginia Secretary of State General Counsel Donald M. Kersey III said allowed the bill to pass with bipartisan support.

Similar issues have plagued Gray’s bill over the years. While voter identification requirements have widespread bipartisan support across the country, his photo identification threshold was seen as too strict. This year’s version of the bill, however, allows not only driver’s licenses to be used but also alternative forms of ID like a tribal identification card, a valid U.S. passport, a U.S. military card or a valid Medicare insurance card.

Recommended for you