Several members of the Wyoming Republican legislature are worried about the state’s incoming secretary of state, a Trump supporter who has wrongly claimed that the 2020 election would be rigged.
The same lawmakers are now working on a measure that would strip the secretary of state of her election oversight responsibilities. Wyoming’s Republican Party has nominated State Representative Chuck Gray for Secretary of State. He does not face an opponent in the general election.
Gray ran on a platform of protecting the honesty of elections, despite claims to the contrary by state officials such as former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan. During the primaries, he expressed interest in phasing out vote drop boxes and presiding over additional improvements, as reported by KGWN and KCWY.
“We need all paper ballots,” he said. “The fact that a few counties have moved off paper ballots, I think, is really wrong. And we need hand audits.”
During the campaign, Gray also promised to fire any workers at the Department of State who didn’t share his vision. A parliamentary committee was compelled to act on Gray’s suggestions because of his mistaken assumption that Donald Trump had stolen the 2020 presidential election.
Republican state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, who co-chairs the panel that deals with election rules in the state, has expressed worry to committee members that Gray might harm the way Wyoming operates its elections and has proposed reforms.
“We may be in a precarious position when it comes to election administration for the next four years,” Zwonitizer said. “And I would feel more confident and comfortable, personally, having a separate operating agency of government made up of all five statewide elected officials who oversee a director of an office of elections.”
The committee voted unanimously to accept his proposal. The Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler stated that the office would no longer oversee elections under the new plan.
“The Wyoming voter registration system, the campaign finance system, it would also remove anything to do with candidate filing and applications for nomination prior to running for office,” Wheeler said. “So there’s quite a bit that would go with it if it were to be removed from this office.”
As Gray was selected to handle all aspects of the job, Republican state Sen. Brian Boner voted against establishing a new election agency. As electoral changes would need parliamentary approval, he said, parliamentarians had supervision.
Boner said, “I do understand some of the concerns.” “I think Rep. Gray might have a hard time delivering on any of the promises that he made during the campaign season. But we also need to acknowledge the results of the election as well.”
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Boner says he has a nagging worry that Gray may fire some essential people. Two people have resigned due to Gray’s remarks. The election director is also searching for a new position. Wheeler has acknowledged it as a valid worry.
“I think you would need to ensure that staff remains that knows that system inside and out — knows if there is a glitch, how to fix it quickly,” she said. “These are complex systems. They aren’t something you buy off the shelf.”
Gray has been silent on the matter of the proposed law. When it next meets in October, the committee will deliberate on the issue and perhaps create legislation to address it.