TORRINGTON – While absentee voting is an option in the state of Wyoming, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan said Cowboy State voters heavily prefer to vote in person – and this year, in the shadow of COVID-19, both Buchanan’s office and Goshen County Clerk Cindy Kenyon are already working toward finding the safest way to hold the 2020 primary and general elections.
The Goshen County primary election will be held on Aug. 18 and the general election – which includes ballots for national offices, including President – will be Nov. 3. During a press conference earlier this month, Buchanan said the election process won’t be immune to the creeping tendrils of COVID-19.
“As most of you can imagine, the elections environment is not immune to the complications and challenges posed by COVID-19,” he said. “Large gatherings of people create a challenge when it comes to keeping our citizens safe when it comes to voting.
“I recognize that as we take steps to make sure our citizens are safe, we have to balance that with taking steps to ensure that our elections remain safe and secure.”
According to Buchanan, the state has a plan in place to allow people to vote, and vote safely.
“We have a great plan in place that will allow you to continue to vote in the 2020 election in person or by absentee ballot,” he said. “It’s the same as it has always been, and we’re taking extra precautions to make sure you can do so safely.”
That includes new voting equipment. Goshen County has received its equipment and Kenyon said she and her staff have already undergone necessary training for the upcoming elections.
“The clerk’s office is really busy prepping for the election right now,” she said. “We got our new equipment, we’ve completed all of the training, we’ve completed all of the necessary state training – everything is just going smoothly.”
Other measures taken by the state have been to require the use of personal protective equipment like gloves and masks by election judges and consolidating voting districts. Goshen County has received a variance, Kenyon said, that would have reduced the county’s 11 polling places to just seven – if there were enough election judges.
“We are starting to hear from judges, who have been directed by the Secretary of State’s office that they are to wear a mask and gloves, and be around cleaning products,” Kenyon said. “We sent out the notice asking if they are willing and able to wear a mask and gloves throughout the day, and to be around the cleaning products. Some people are very sensitive to cleaning products.
“We’re starting to get some of those back, and we’ve had some yays and some nays. What I found interesting is that some people’s job situations have changed, where staffing numbers are lower due to COVID, so people who were able to come out for the day are having to work.”
The Wyoming Constitution only allows voters two choices when it comes to casting their ballots – in-person, or absentee. In-person is the preferred method for most Wyomingites, Buchanan said, but absentee ballots are viable options for people who may be more susceptible to COVID-19.
Absentee ballots are available by a request to the county clerk, who will then mail the ballot. It’s up to the voter to send the ballot back to be counted.
“Absentee voting is not new, and it has been allowed in Wyoming for decades,” Buchanan said. “We wanted to highlight it, especially for those in the population that may find themselves susceptible from complications of COVID-19, or may not feel safe from a health perspective in going to the polls in person in 2020. It necessarily involves mailing that ballot, but it should not be confused with ‘vote-by-mail’ or a ‘mail-in election,’ that are found in a handful of other states.”
For those who prefer to vote in person, Buchanan said his office is working with partners and other government agencies to have proper signage, PPE and cleaning materials on hand at polling locations.
“My office is taking every effort in utilizing federal funds and leveraging some of our partnerships to ensure that we have signage, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and those types of things for our election workers and our voters,” he said. “Our goal here is to have elections as normal as possible while maintaining the safety of our poll workers, our county clerks and their staff, and of course the Wyoming citizens.”
Kenyon said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
“I look forward to the challenge in trying to work out all of the logistics and trying to staff everything,” she said. “It’s much more complicated this year than it has been in the past.”