More than 12,500 switch parties

By: 
Wyoming News Exchange

By Nick Reynolds

Casper Star-Tribune

Via Wyoming News Exchange

 

CASPER — More than 12,500 Wyoming voters changed their party affiliation this summer, new numbers from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office show.

The long-awaited data, which covered a period between July 6 and Sept. 20, addresses the question of crossover voting — or the practice of members switching their party affiliation on Election Day to influence the result of another party — and its influence on the election.

In Wyoming, it is legal to register to vote or change your party at your polling place on the day of the election.

Many conservative groups — and Republican candidate for governor Foster Friess — speculated in the days following the vote that many Democrats chose to switch parties to influence the results in favor of a more moderate candidate. However, the new numbers do not have a breakdown of who each crossover voter decided to vote for, or if they even voted at all, making that fact hard to distill.

“It is absolutely vital that anyone analyzing these party change numbers understand that these numbers are tied to a person’s voter registration and do not represent total ballots cast in the election, and that these numbers do not indicate for whom a person voted,” State Election Director Kai Schon said in a statement.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, of the 12,509 people to switch their parties 6,057 Democrats switched to Republican; 4,355 unaffiliated voters registered as Republicans; 744 unaffiliated voters registered as Democrats; 477 members of the Constitution and Libertarian parties registered as Republicans; 430 Republicans registered as Democrats; 296 persons of assorted parties registered as unaffiliated; and 701 switched parties and then switched back at their polling place.

These numbers show a broader Republican advantage than previously available in earlier estimates. According to a Star-Tribune analysis of the race in September, Wyoming’s Republican Party added 8,200 new voters between Aug. 21 and Sept. 1. Democrats lost just 1,800 voters during that time, while nearly 2,400 unaffiliated voters chose to register for a party.

According to these new numbers, roughly half of all unaffiliated voters to register to vote for a party this summer did so outside of the most crucial dates of the election. More than 2,000 other individuals switched their party to Republican outside of that period as well.

However, Wyoming’s Secretary of State Office spokesman Will Dinneen told the Star-Tribune that registration numbers change on a month-to-month basis and that this new state measure is the most accurate one.

Still, the new numbers — particularly given the 9,000 vote margin of victory achieved by Republican nominee Mark Gordon over Friess — have raised some questions, particularly among the Friess camp, which, even after the election, is still active, currently working on a transparency and school safety campaign. Following the release of the Secretary of State’s report, Friess’ campaign manager, Jon Parker, sent out a media query offering interviews with Friess, who has criticized the group Independent Republicans of Wyoming and their campaign “Switch for Wyoming,” which encouraged voters to switch parties to Republican and then switch back in order to impact the election.

After the highest-turnout primary election in Wyoming’s history, crossover voting has emerged as something of a wedge issue on the campaign trail, especially in the Secretary of State race: In a recent forum in Cheyenne, Republican candidate Ed Buchanan said there should be restrictions for crossover voters, while Democrat Jim Byrd said it would betray the Founding Fathers’ principles of nonpartisan elections.

Dinneen told the Star-Tribune that while the report was not something the state had typically done in the past, it chose to look at crossover voting due to intense public interest and would likely produce similar reports in the future.

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