Wyoming lawmakers to debate Trump-backed primary changes

February 17, 2022 GMT

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming lawmakers voted narrowly Thursday to consider a Donald Trump-backed bill that could affect Liz Cheney’s re-election chances by making it harder for voters to register as Republicans ahead of this summer’s primary.

Wyoming currently allows voters to register at the polls on primary day and decide then if they want to affiliate as Republican or Democrat and get a ballot for either the Republican or Democratic primary. Voters may also register and/or affiliate up to two weeks before the primary.

Some Republicans fret that less conservative Republican candidates get a boost when left-leaning voters register as Republicans instead of Democrats.

Republican lawmakers propose to change the law by restricting party affiliation to no earlier than 96 days before the Republican and Democratic primaries, which are set for Aug. 16 this year.

“It makes total sense that only Democrats vote in the Democrat primary and only Republicans vote in the Republican primary,” Trump said in a statement Thursday endorsing the proposed change.

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The Wyoming Senate voted 20-10 to introduce the party affiliation bill for further consideration. The measure needed a two-thirds majority to advance because it’s not related to the state budget taken up by the Legislature in even-numbered years.

“It’s very controversial, obviously, but I think it’s important for people to feel that their vote isn’t canceled out,” Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, said of the bill on the Senate floor.

The state Senate didn’t debate the bill but sent it to a committee for discussion. The measure would need to clear both the Senate and House before going to Republican Gov. Mark Gordon.

Similar measures have failed in the Wyoming Legislature in recent years amid concern that narrowing the dates in the law could dampen turnout. Nonpartisan primary ballots in Wyoming offer far fewer choices, typically only a handful of judges and other unaffiliated down-ballot candidates.

Trump’s support for the changes comes as Cheney fends off at least three Republican primary challengers, including Trump-endorsed Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman.

Cheney and a handful of other Republicans in Congress stoked Trump’s ire by voting to impeach him for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney was first elected Wyoming’s lone congressperson in 2016.

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