Voter ID faces legal challenge

CASPER — An attorney and former Democratic lawmaker filed suit Wednesday over Wyoming’s voter ID law, arguing it violates multiple sections of the state’s constitution. The lawsuit alleges the law, which went into effect last year, is inconvenient and unnecessary. 

“(The voter ID law) trammels the constitutional right essential to suffrage both in passage and operation,” the suit states. 

The law, which requires voters to show ID at the polls, was passed in the 2021 legislative session and has been in effect for less than a year. Wyoming voters have long had to show a photo ID when registering, a provision the lawsuit does not challenge. 

The lawsuit, filed by former Democratic representative Charles Pelkey, represents one of the first attempts to legally challenge the voter ID law on the basis of the state’s constitution. 

“This is not the last century,” the lawsuit read. “The government needs to show why the first acceptable photo ID cannot display automatically to the poll workers when people vote, so voters can be welcomed and thanked for voting—rather than challenged.” 

The law was enacted via House Bill 75, whose primary sponsor was Casper Rep. Chuck Gray. 

Notably, 40 members of the House of Representatives and half of the 30-member Wyoming Senate signed on as co-sponsors. 

“This formal complaint has been filed by a former Democrat state legislator after the law has already gone into effect and been utilized in multiple elections,” Gray said in a statement. “Today’s filing is frivolous and demonstrates how the radical Left wants to make it easier to cheat in elections.” 

Currently, 35 states have some sort of voter ID law with varying levels of requirements. 

In Wyoming, if ID is not presented at the polls, a voter is given a provisional ballot. To have that ballot be counted, the voter must visit a county clerk no later than the close of business on the following day and present a valid ID. 

“They do not have a compelling need to assess this. If they did, where is the evidence?” said Tim Newcomb, the plaintiff in the case and another attorney who has expertise in the Wyoming Constitution.

Pelkey said that the Wyoming Constitution “puts a higher standard for imposing limits on voting rights” than the U.S. Constitution. He was not in the Legislature when the bill passed, but lawmakers attempted to adopt voter ID legislation multiple times before they were successful in 2021. 

While past attempts at voter ID were rebuffed, the effort gained new life in the wake of growing concerns about voter fraud by Republicans in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. 

Voter fraud is extremely rare in Wyoming, with only a handful of convictions over the past several decades. 

During previous legislative sessions, Pelkey said he argued that the bill risked being deemed unconstitutional. 

“Election integrity is pivotal and the voter ID legislation is a basic safeguard to fight voter fraud,” Gray said in his statement. 

The voter ID law was in effect during some local elections last fall, but its biggest test will come this summer, when Wyoming’s primary election is scheduled.