By Joshua Wolfson
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday vetoed legislation designed to prevent people from sending misleading absentee ballot request forms, saying late changes to the bill could produce unintended consequences that compromise election integrity.
Since the Legislature is no longer in session, it would be nearly impossible for lawmakers to attempt to override Gordon’s veto.
In a letter released Friday, Gordon noted that the bill was drafted to prevent possible voter confusion stirred after then-Rep. Liz Cheney’s campaign sent a mailer in the last election with the misleading phrase “official election document enclosed” on the envelope.
In its original form, the bill would have barred anyone mailing an absentee ballot to a voter unless the voter had asked them to do so. The Senate amended the bill to directly address misleading mailers by barring the sending of something that “claims to be an official election document.”
That, Gordon wrote, would have dealt directly with the potential for confusion in the bill.
“Regrettably, some members of the House saw fit to take action to strike this useful Senate amendment while a number of its members were temporarily not on the floor,” the governor wrote in the letter. “Without the benefit of the Senate’s clarifying language, the intent of the legislation had been muddled to the point where signing [the bill] as currently written could well result in unintended consequences that would compromise confidence and integrity.”
Gordon also noted the legislation could suppress proper absentee voting.
The legislation was among several bills this session aimed at election integrity and security issues, which became a growing concern among Republicans after former President Donald Trump made unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. (Dozens of courts have rejected his arguments.)
Trump took specific aim at mail-in ballots, which people often use to vote absentee.
Gordon has signed other election security bills this session. Still, he stressed that Wyoming’s elections system is secure.
“I want to be clear, at no time have I been presented with fact of fraud, mismanagement or malfeasance in Wyoming’s elections process,” he wrote.
Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who campaigned on a promise of rooting out voter fraud in Wyoming and championed the legislation, said in a statement Friday that he was disappointed in Gordon’s decision to veto the bill.
“As originally drafted, the bill banned the practice of sending out unsolicited absentee ballot request forms. This was meant to address a specific problem identified in the last election, in which Liz Cheney’s campaign sent out predatory absentee ballot request forms containing official election language as part of a mass mailing campaign. Liz Cheney’s arrogant move undermined voter confidence and is part of a troubling trend across our country of organizations sending out these request forms in bad faith,” he said, describing the Senate’s amendments as “convoluted” and counter to the bill’s purpose.
Gray also noted the bill received overwhelming support in the House.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Lynn Hutchings.
“If we send out a document … that gives the appearance of being official, no matter who’s sending it out, there’s a little deception in there,” Hutchings explained before a Senate committee during the session. “In this era of people wondering about voter integrity, this is where this bill comes into play.”