By Jasmine Hall
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Democratic Party is at risk of losing major party status if Democrats in the state don’t register and vote in the general election.
The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office reported that out of the more than 182,000 votes cast in the primary election overall, only 4.5% were for Democratic candidates. Republican candidates received 94.4% of the vote, and nonpartisan votes cast were at 1.1%.
The lopsided numbers were the result of many Democrats “crossing over” and voting Republican to support incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who has taken a strong stance against former President Donald Trump and serves as vice chair of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Cheney lost to challenger Harriet Hageman by 63,709 votes.
Democrats need to meet the 10% threshold of total votes cast for any one of the statewide offices – U.S. House of Representatives, governor or secretary of state – in the general election, or else they will be considered a minor political party.
Under state statute, a minor political party is a political organization that receives not less than 2% or more than 10% of the total votes cast in the same office elections.
If they received less than 2%, a representative from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Election Division said the Democratic Party would need to petition to gain access as a provisional party.
Minor and provisional political parties must nominate through a convention, meaning only the Republican Party would be allowed to nominate candidates by primary election, if Democrats lost major party status.
Laramie County Democratic Party Communications Director Lindsey Hanlon said it also impacts participation in debates. (Hanlon is also a member of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s editorial board.)
However, Democratic Party officials said they are not concerned.
“Historically speaking, Democratic candidates for governor, U.S. House or U.S. Senate have performed well above the 10% threshold outlined in Wyoming law,” WDP Communications Director David Martin told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “So, it’s not something we’re concerned about. We’re more concerned about issues such as quality education, making sure that public lands remain in public hands, things along those lines.”
Hanlon said she is confident that Democrats will gain the votes necessary to continue as a major party in the state, but she was distressed to see the low percentage of representation during the primary.
She said she believes U.S. House candidate Lynnette GreyBull and governor candidate Terry Livingston are both fantastic candidates, and they will pull voters back to the Democratic Party.
The biggest issue she sees with voters remaining registered as Republicans is it makes it harder to send out mailers or keep track of Democratic rolls, Hanlon said. She recommends voters change their registration back to Democrat before the general election.
“It does make it harder to communicate with those voters,” she said. “For example, if we’re wanting to send out a reminder mailer, and we want to send it out to all Democrats – we’re going to end up missing any Democrat who’s currently registered as a Republican.”
Despite a low number of voters participating in the Democratic primary, the turnout of the voting age population in the state was one of the highest in the past four decades, according to the Wyoming Election Division.
Close to 41% of the voting age population took part in the 2022 primary, and the last closest amount was 41.5% of the population in 1994.
It also has been a successful year in terms of the percentage of the voting age population that is registered to vote.
On Aug. 16, there were 287,014 voters registered, which is the highest ever seen in Wyoming. It was also the highest amount in terms of voter turnout, with 182,232 filling out their ballot in the primary, or about 64%.