By Mike Koshmrl, WyoFile.com
Marti Halverson was posted up kitty-corner to the election judges’ table over the course of a long day Nov. 8 at the Star Valley Community Complex.
The former state representative, who chairs an election integrity-focused Wyoming Republican Party committee, was among a couple hundred poll watchers that the state GOP trained and cast out to all corners of Wyoming to monitor for election wrongdoing.
Funny business was tough to find. Halverson didn’t see anything that struck her as illegal or suspicious.
“I’ll tell you that the election judges at that location were just wonderful,” she said. “They had the process down pat, everything went smoothly and at the end of the day I gave them huge kudos.”
Halverson’s experience was typical of the army of poll watchers the Wyoming GOP deployed. Based on poll watcher reports from around Wyoming, “everything went pretty darn smoothly,” she said. The most flagrant violation that Halverson heard of was of campaign signs too close to a polling station.
In a press release issued ahead of the election, Halverson said that Wyoming lacks election integrity issues she perceives in other states.
“Our efforts here in Wyoming only seek to inject a little more transparency in our election processes and applications,” she said.
An increased interest in poll watching across the country stems from former President Donald Trump’s disproven claims about 2020 election fraud, which have eroded many Americans’ confidence in their elections. This skepticism is prevalent in Wyoming, a state where the secretary of state called for doing away with ballot drop boxes and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s resounding defeat was attributed to her challenging Trump’s election assertions.
Ahead of the general election, the Wyoming Republican Party announced it had trained 200 poll watchers to monitor Wyoming’s 150 polling stations. Poll watchers were present in 22 of 23 counties, Halverson said, with only Teton County Republicans not partaking. Nationally, there were 70,000 Republican poll watchers monitoring the general election, according to the GOP press release.
Under Wyoming’s election code, poll watchers are not election officials and they play no role in administering elections. Chairman of the major county parties certify poll watchers, and up to one can be present at a time in any polling place.
County clerks who administered the general election noticed the increase in poll watching interest. Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee was given a list of 22 poll watchers ahead of the election. They cycled through, one at a time, throughout the day at the seven voting stations in Cheyenne and beyond. Each was given a badge so they were identifiable to voters, she said.
“We didn’t have any poll watchers from any other party,” Lee said. “The GOP was the only party that fielded poll watchers.”
There have been past tensions between poll watchers and Wyoming county clerks. Rick Martin, who co-chairs the GOP’s election integrity committee with Halverson, said that 2020 their presence was “new and unexpected” and that they “received a rocky reception in a few areas.”
Relations apparently improved.
“What was most heartening is that … voters were stopping to tell the poll watchers, ‘We are so glad you’re here,’” Halverson said.
There were no reports in Laramie County of poll watchers causing conflicts or interfering with voting, Lee said.
Converse County Clerk Karen Rimmer said the same of the six poll watchers who monitored her voting stations.
“Our poll watchers were pretty respectful,” Rimmer said. “They’d all taken the training that was provided by the Republican Party. I know a couple of clerks attended that as well, and they thought that the party did a good job of following statutes.”
The only “odd thing,” she said, was an email that went out ahead of the election from the Wyoming Republican Party encouraging poll watchers to check for WiFi at polling stations. Trump and some factions of the GOP have embraced conspiracy theories that voting machines can be compromised through internet connections, which might explain the GOP’s memo.
“I don’t really know what that was going to prove to anyone,” Rimmer said.
Republican poll watchers came out on a midterm Election Day that was a resounding success for the GOP in the Equality State, though the party fared worse than expected nationwide. In Wyoming the party added to its supermajority, displaced Democrats from everywhere but Albany and Teton counties and grew its ranks of Trump-aligned representatives and senators.
Halverson dismissed the idea that the Wyoming GOP’s success might have colored poll watchers’ perception that the election went smoothly.
“Good heavens, that’s not even worthy of a comment,” she said.