Elections shouldn’t be decided by judges

By: 
Bob Bonnar

We applaud the decision of the Wyoming Attorney General to ask the Laramie County District Court to dismiss the state’s case against Republican gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes, and agree with Secretary of State Ed Buchanan’s assertion that the election issues in question should not be resolved by a judge after the voters have already spoken in that race.

Although we have not seen any indication that county officials wish to do so, we sincerely hope that anybody else who may be inclined to challenge the result of the Weston County Attorney election will choose to let the decision of the voters stand as well.

In seperate court cases filed prior to the 2018 Primary Election, the eligibility of Haynes and Weston County Attorney-elect Alex Berger was challenged because of questions involving the residency of the candidates. In both cases, the candidates names were allowed to appear on the ballots presented to voters on August 21, and we don’t feel it would be appropriate for a judge to issue a ruling now in either of those cases that could possibly change the outcome of those races.

Because of press coverage of both election campaigns, the voters were well aware of the residency issue faced by both candidates, and made their choices armed with that information. (Haynes lost his bid for the Republican nomination for governor, while Berger won the County Attorney election by a landslide.)

Regardless of how the letter of the law is interpreted, voters were able to make their choices and have their voices heard — and justice simply would not be served if those voices were silenced now because of a technicality.

At the same time, the issues raised by the candidacies of Haynes and Berger need to be addressed, but because the election has already been decided the courts are not the place to find a fix and that chore now shifts to another branch of government.

The Wyoming State Legislature should act quickly to debate and pass legislation that will provide clarity in the state’s election law. The legislature must specifically define residency requirements for candidates and give clear direction to state and local election officials regarding their role in enforcing the state’s election laws.

As voters, it would be easy for us to become complacent because our favorite candidates won, but we should urge our local lawmakers to act now while the memory of the election is fresh in everybody’s mind. If they fail to work towards a solution immediately, we may find ourselves in the same situation when another election begins in 2020.

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