Ballot harvesting bill stripped in House Corporations Committee
Feb. 1 — CHEYENNE — A bill aimed at reducing opportunities for ballot collection had almost all of its original language stripped before it was passed by the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Wednesday.
Ballot collection is defined in a variety of ways, but the simplest form is when a person collects two or more absentee ballots to drop off at a post box or post box at the same time. This can be in the form of someone posting their own ballot and their partner’s ballot for them, or in a larger form that has attracted negative attention in recent elections.
House Corporations Chairman Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, sponsored House Bill 211, which he said sought to clarify microscale ballot collection by immediate family or an appointee. He said he wanted to continue allowing it and he said there was good reason for it but it had to be allowed because the statute was silent.
He also wanted to ban large-scale ballot collection, but said he didn’t think it was happening within the state.
“When we talk about corporations, political parties and organizations,” he said, “that’s what we want to ban in Wyoming.”
Olsen’s bill had several parts. The bill would have changed the definition of “immediate family” in the Electoral Code to mean “spouse, parent, sibling or other blood relative living in the person’s household,” replacing the previous word “person” with “blood relative.”
It would also have enumerated the methods for delivering a ballot, such as: B. Mail, hand delivery to the district secretary’s office, or deposit in a ballot box provided by the district secretary.
A voter who designated another person to return their marked and sealed ballot would also have to notify the district clerk using a form that would be provided by the Office of the Wyoming Secretary of State, and that designated person could only return up to two absentee ballots for each Choice.
However, the restriction would not apply to nominees who cast absentee ballots from immediate family members.
All of this language was removed in several amendments at the end of the meeting and added at the request of the Wyoming County Clerks Association.
It provides a clearer definition of ballot collection and states that suspected acts may be subject to investigation by a district attorney or the local sheriff’s office. This is the same language used in existing electoral law on how agencies handle misconduct investigations.
“The definition presented as valid collection is the solicited collection and return of completed absentee ballots by a third party, volunteer or worker, when not directly requested to do so by a voter and with the voter’s express permission,” said Mary Lankford , a representative of the Landratsamtsverband.
Lankford also urged with other county officials for the continued use of mailboxes in the state, saying needs are different in each county. It could be used to pay taxes, do county business or deliver documents.
This contradicted earlier statements by Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who did not want to mention dropboxes in the bill and advocated their removal. He said the bill takes an “unprecedented step to codify this language in Wyoming law” and would undermine the state’s confidence in elections.
Gray supported legislation banning ballot collection, but he did not approve of the limited permit approach.
The bill will go on the general record of the House of Representatives for the first reading because the deadline for introducing bills before the House of Origin committee on the whole is Monday.
Jasmine Hall is the government reporter for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.