A bill that would codify rules for electronic voting machines was postponed for its third reading in the Senate. Sponsored by the Joint Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Interim Committee, it passed the House on a 33-27-2 vote and was introduced to the Senate on Jan. 19 where it subsequently passed its first two readings.
The bill aims to codify the Wyoming Secretary of State’s guidelines regarding election system security. That includes requiring proof that a vendor, or the provider of a voting system(s) meet the specified requirements outlined in the bill, the EAC [U.S. Election Assistance Commission], and the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, which would issue a certificate indicating the vendor was in good standing with the state. Get A New Voters Registration Card
The EAC is an independent, bipartisan commission that was created by Congress via the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It’s tasked with developing guidelines to meet HAVA requirements and serve as a clearinghouse of information on election administration, among other responsibilities.
“The County Clerk's support [the bill] and would really appreciate the codification of the federal certification for our electronic voting systems,” said Mary Lankford, a representative of the Wyoming County Clerk’s Association. “We feel that the codification of this portion of the rules only strengthens the security of Wyoming's election system and our integrity.”
Lankford added that Wyoming is one of 38 states that are federally certified for their electronic voting machines. But the bill still has several House and Senate amendments that are being followed by the Clerk’s Association.
There were concerns about the state making more requirements for voting machine companies within the licensing voting systems than is already required at the federal level.
One of the extra requirements would include allowing there to be requests to to reexamine voting machines after elections.
Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese recommended that language be taken out of the bill. She also added that voting machines and voting systems, though sometimes used interchangeably, are different. A system can encompass coding ballots and receiving results from votes cast on voting machines.
“The word I'm having a problem with just to be clear is reexamination,” Freese said. “Like, that's kind of arbitrary, and I don't think [as far as the county clerks], you've got 23 opinions…I don't want them to upset the entire state's voting system. I think I'm not so much opposed to this language. I just don't like the idea that the Secretary of State or a county clerk, any one of those people can say, ‘I think there should be some reexamination of this because I'm not really sure if that voting system machine worked.’”
Another amendment relating to the definition of the word problematic came up.
“I'm concerned that we give any secretary of state the authority to come up with some problem or some word like problematic, that this is problematic to them that suddenly it can upset the certification of our machines and lead to a decertification,” Freese said. “It takes a long time to get machines to a county and up and running for an election first of all, so we want to be very careful about how we're allowing a[n] easy decent decertification.”
Additional concerns were voiced by the creator of a blog and nonprofit focused on increasing voter turnout and creating more civic engagement.
“My recommendation would be to go back to the original language,” said Gail Symons, creator of Civics 307. “There is nothing the state could do that even has the capabilities of being more specific and more granular on certifying any voting system that already exists at the federal level. So, this simply in my mind muddies the water.”
Despite these concerns, Gray argued that safeguards are necessary to maintain public trust in the state’s elections and said the company Election Systems & Software (ES&S) didn’t have objections to the engrossed version of the bill.
“Our current voting [company ES&S] machines system actually reached out to us [and] they gave us an email of a number of lobbyists who are trying to kind of drum up saying this is requiring them to release a lot of data that they shouldn't be,” he said. “They made clear to us that they didn't want anything removed from this. They think the way this read[s] the engrossed version is fine and this is not too much data. This is in the name of transparency…I think it's important for voter confidence. I think there were already questions about this bill [as it] was a close vote over in the House, and I really think we should keep it in.”
Voting Paper Counter The bill has been laid back and will be voted upon for a third time at a later date. This occurs when bills have amendments in order for them to be further debated.