Jae C. Hong/AP
Wyoming’s likely next secretary of state, a Trump-endorsed Republican who falsely called the 2020 election fraudulent, is raising concerns among many of his fellow GOP lawmakers.
Now those lawmakers are aiming to craft a bill to remove the Secretary of State’s ability to oversee elections.
State Representative Chuck Gray is the Republican nominee for Wyoming’s Secretary of State. He has no opponent in the legislative elections.
Although state officials — including outgoing Secretary of State Ed Buchanan — maintain that elections in Wyoming are safe, Gray campaigned on concerns he has about election integrity. During the primary, he told TV stations KGWN and KCWY that he wanted to ban ballot boxes and oversee other reforms.
“We need all paper ballots,” he said. “The fact that a few counties have moved away from paper ballots, I think that’s really wrong. And we need manual audits.”
Gray also said during the campaign that he would get rid of the Secretary of State’s employees who did not share his vision.
Gray’s proposals, coupled with his false belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, convinced a legislative committee to act.
Republican State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, who co-chairs the state’s Election Laws Group, told committee members he was concerned that Gray would harm the way Wyoming conducts its elections and that he wants to change things.
“We could be in a precarious position when it comes to administering the elections for the next four years,” Zwonitizer said. “And I would feel more confident and comfortable, personally, to have a separate government agency made up of the state’s five elected officials overseeing a director of an election office.”
The committee approved his motion on a voice vote.
Assistant Secretary of State Karen Wheeler said the proposal would remove all electoral functions from the office.
“Wyoming’s voter registration system, the campaign finance system, would also remove anything to do with filing nominations and running for nomination before running for office,” Wheeler said. “So there are quite a few things that would go with it, if he were to be removed from this office.”
Republican Sen. Brian Boner voted against creating a new election agency because Gray was appointed to handle all facets of the office. He added that lawmakers have control since electoral reforms would require legislative approval.
“I understand some of the concerns,” Boner said. “I think Rep. Gray might struggle to deliver on any of the promises he made this campaign season. But we also have to recognize the election results.”
Boner admits he’s slightly worried that Gray might decide to get rid of some key employees. One of them has already resigned over Gray’s comments, and the chief electoral officer is looking for a new job.
Wheeler said that was a real concern.
“I think you should make sure the staff stay on top of this system – know if there’s a problem, how to fix it quickly,” she said. “These are complex systems, they’re not something you buy off the shelf.”
Gray has not commented on the bill. The committee will discuss the issue further and consider a draft bill when it meets in October.