An official ballot drop-off box at the Teton County Administration Building. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

WYOMING — Forty percent of Wyoming voters cast their ballots before the Nov. 8 general election, says a new survey conducted by the University of Wyoming (UW).

According to the survey, two out of five Wyoming voters cast ballots before election day, while three out of five cast their ballots at the polls on Nov. 8. Among those casting ballots early, 66 percent voted in person at a designated location, and 34 percent voted by mail.

Telephone interviews with 524 Wyoming residents selected at random were conducted by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center’s Survey Research Center at UW. Participants in the survey were interviewed in late October and again during the week following the election. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

Findings from the survey revealed a “modest” decline in early voting from 2020, said Jim King, the survey’s director and a UW professor of political science. But still, early voting proves itself to be a growing trend compared to 2018 and years prior.

“This year, 40 percent of Wyomingites voted early compared to 48 percent two years ago and 31 percent in 2018,” King says.

Needless to say, COVID-19 contributed to the substantial increase in early voting from 2018 to 2020. King believes that people who voted early in 2020 due to the pandemic might have seen how easy the process is and opted to do so again. He added that two factors were associated with the decision to vote early in 2022.

In a pattern seen across the nation in recent years, early voting was more common among Democrats than among Republicans and independents. And, as was seen in previous elections, age is associated with early voting, as older citizens commonly take advantage of the convenience offered by voting at an early voting location or by mail.

This year, 52 percent of Wyomingites age 55 years and older opted to vote early, while 77 percent of those age 54 years and younger chose to vote in person during the general election, according to the survey results.

Wyoming’s voter identification law was implemented in a general election for the first time this year, with few complaints by voters.

“Before the election, we asked survey participants if they approved or disapproved of the new voter ID law, and 92 percent indicated their approval,” King says. “After the election, we asked voters about the difficulty in complying with the law. Only one voter characterized the process as ‘not too difficult.’ Everyone else we interviewed replied that it was ‘not difficult at all.’”

King says that another contributing factor is that Wyoming’s law accepts a larger number of forms of identification than is typically found in other states’ voter ID laws. This likely contributed to the popular support of the law and the ease of compliance, he adds.

While a large portion of Wyoming’s voters have particpated in early voting, some want it to be discontinued.

In October, Wyoming’s interim Secretary of State, Karl Allred, sent a letter to County Clerk offices across the state requesting the clerks “voluntarily discontinue” the use of absentee ballot drop boxes.

In the letter, Allred asked for “an honest assessment” by the clerks. He noted that no issues have been reported with the drop boxes but that it “does not alleviate the potential for abuse or destruction of ballots through use of fire or other means.” Allred suggested that if clerks continue to use drop boxes, they should be under 24-hour surveillance, the ballots retrieved at the end of each day, and the date, time and number of ballots be recorded appropriately in their chain of custody logs; which is a practice that is common when using ballot boxes. 

In response to Allred’s letter, Teton County Clerk Maureen Murphy said she would not remove the county’s ballot box, located outside of the Teton County Administration building.

“We have many voters that depend on the ability to drop off their ballots on weekends and/or after we are closed in the evening.  The ballot box at the Administration building has always been under 24-hour surveillance and is directly outside of our front door,” Murphy said. 

Seven of the 23 Wyoming counties used drop boxes in the 2022 general election including Teton, Albany, Big Horn, Converse, Fremont, Laramie and Sweetwater.

Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter. She's a lover of alliteration, easy-to-follow recipes and board games when everyone knows the rules. Her favorite aspect about living in the Tetons is the collective admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.