Earlier this month the Wyoming Democratic Party asked Fremont Count Attorney Patrick LeBrun to investigate alledged voting difficulties that were experienced during the 2018 election.
According to the party, residents on the Wind River Indian Reservation reported difficulty voting in two different circumstances. A voter said that an employee at the County Clerk’s office allegedly were told by an employee they’d need a valid driver’s license to vote before the day of the election. Additionally, an incident was reported in which a volunteer at a polling station was reported to be asking voters to read an oath about election procedures, which Democrats said violated state law.
Earlier this May, Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese issued a statement about the voting allegations saying, “During the absentee and early voting process, I was not aware of any voter who was denied the right to vote. In fact, my deputies made extraordinary efforts to make sure that all eligible persons desiring to register and vote were allowed to do so. On Election Day, the election was overseen by election judges and observed by poll watchers and the voters, and I received no complaints. Had I received any complaints, I would have immediately investigated and remedied any inconsistency. Running a proper and fair election and assuring that all eligible persons are afforded the right to vote is a priority of the Fremont County Clerk.”
County Attorney Patrick LeBrun released his investigation late last week. The complete findings LeBrun sent out are pasted below:
SCOPE OF REVIEW:
The purpose of this review is to determine whether or not a willful violation of Wyoming Election law occurred with reference to the two incidents alleged in the letter dated May 15, 2019. The purpose of the review is not intended to include policy recommendations administrative, personnel or otherwise, nor should any be inferred, as those matters remain exclusively within the prerogative of the elected office of the Clerk.
INFORMATION RELIED UPON:
The primary sources of information came directly from the various statements provided by your Office along with the cooperation of the Fremont County Clerk. I also researched the Wyoming Election Code as well as the Help America Vote Act. Further, I conducted personal interviews and reviewed relevant documents.
No violation of Wyoming Election law occurred with reference to either the first or second incident.
Lynette Grey Bullt issued two (2) written statements regarding this incident which I have reviewed. Other members of the group issued written statements, as well. There are some minor inconsistences among the statements, however they are generally consistent.
According to Ms. Grey Bull, she and a group of two men and three women intended to vote at the Lander Courthouse, around lunchtime, on October 29,2018. Most of the group had previously registered to vote at one of Clerk Julie Freese’s “voter registration drives,” she had organized at Arapahoe, Wyoming. Two women in the group had not yet registered to vote, however.In order to register to vote in Wyoming certain requirements must be satisfied. Since two of the women had not yet registered to vote, those requirements would come into issue. In Wyoming, the law is clear. If a person is validly licensed by Wyoming to drive a vehicle, he or she MUST provide their Wyoming Drivers’ License Number. W.5.22-3-103(vi). If a person is NOT validly licensed to drive in Wyoming, there are other procedures. For the validly licensed driver, however, providing the drivers’ license number is the exclusive manner by which to register.
According to Ms. Grey Bull, the Clerk’s Office employee (hereafter employee), initially, misunderstood that the six were there to “early vote.” Ms. Grey Bull corrected the employee and said “are you not able to help us?” The employee acknowledged the correction, then proceeded to explain the necessary requirements for registering, which included a Wyoming drivers’ license number because the two women were licensed by the State of Wyoming to drive. According to Ms. Grey Bull, she disagreed with the employee. Ms. Grey Bull has made two separate, but similar, written statements regarding her response to the employee. In one statement Ms. Grey Bull asserts she told the employee “the ones who have no license can either use their state of Wyoming I.D. and or tribal I.D. In the other statement, Ms. Grey Bull asserts she told the employee, “They’re able to register to vote and early vote with a tribal I.D. and the last 4 of their social security number.”
Ms. Grey Bull believed that Wyoming law authorized an “alternative way” to register to vote, in the event that the voter did not have their drivers’ license number immediately available. There is no exception to the law in Wyoming. If a person is a licensed driver, he or she must
t Ms. Grey Bull’s name is used in this document because she has previously identified herself in public statements regarding this matter. Others involved who have not been publically identified will not be referred to by name.
provide the drivers’ license number on the registration form. The social sectrity number route is simply not an available option to a licensed driver under Wyoming law.
According to Ms. Grey Bull, as her disagreement with the employee continued, she then called the Fremont County Democratic Chair and told him that the two women were not being allowed to register with tribal I.D. and social security number. Then per Ms. Grey Bull’s statement, she handed the telephone to the employee and the two conversed. Both the employee and the Fremont County Democratic Chair were interviewed during this investigation about the substance of their conversation, however neither has a suffrcient memory of the complete substance. The Chair does state that he felt the employee responded in an abrupt manner, when the employee was asked her name. Apparently, the employee responded by stating oowhat’s your ftame?”
Subsequent to the conversation between the employee and the Chair, the two women acquiesced to the procedure of using their drivers’ license number.
One of the women retrieved either a photo copy of her drivers’ license or an expired drivers’ license from the vehicle outside. The clerk then obtained the drivers’ license number from the copy along with the woman’s tribal identification. She was registered and then voted.
The other woman did not know her drivers’ license number nor did she have a copy that could be used. Nevertheless, the employee was able to locate the woman’s drivers’ license number through access to WYDOT. Having located the woman’s drivers’ license number through the State, the employee was then able to use the woman’s tribal identification. She was registered and then voted.
All members of the group voted that day.
After reviewing this case, it is clear the group was upset. It is apparent, however, that it stemmed, to great extent, from a misunderstanding of the law and genuine belief, although incorrect, that they should have been allowed to register purely through use of their tribal identification. Members of the group remark that they believe racism and voter suppression was a factor in the encounter. According to the members of the group, there was no racist commentary made. During my investigation, I found no evidence of racism or voter suppression.
The employee involved indicated that she worked diligently to make certain these women were able to register and vote.
All of the evidence, available to me shows the procedure used by the employee on October 29,2018 was no different in kind to the several thousand other registrations that occurred in Fremont County. I would note however, that instructions provided to potential registrants have been reworked to further clarify the law.
There was no violation of Wyoming Election Law regarding Incident One.
Literacy shall never be required to vote or register. See W.S. 22-l-102(a)(xxvi). Wyoming law is clear. Wyoming election code would be violated and serious criminal and civil rights offenses would result if anyone in Wyoming were ever denied the privilege due to illiteracy.During my investigation, I interviewed one of the Democratic Party Poll watchers and reviewed his written statement. I also interviewed the Head Judge. Voters at Ethete, Wyoming were asked to read the oath aloud. This process was not, in line, with training, however it was not being used as a literacy test. If voters were unable to read the oath, the oath was read to them.
During the interview of the Head Judge at Ethete, she explained her reason for doing this. She stated that some years back, she registered a voter, who she later learned was a convicted felon. She indicated how much that bothered her. She wanted to make certain that anyone who registered to vote understood that the law prohibited felon voting unless rights have been restored. She further stated that, having grown up on the Wind River Indian Reservation, and having attended Wyoming Indian High School many years ago, she knew 75oh of the people who came to her to vote. And that none of them complained to her about the process.
Certified Democratic Party poll watchers were present, at the Ethete site, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. on “Election day.” According to the poll watchers, no person was denied voting because of literacy. Further, the poll watchers make no claim that there was any attempt to deny voting because of literacy. My investigation has found no person, poll watcher or otherwise, who claims as much.
I do not give an opinion as to whether having a voter read the oath; or reading it to the voter is a good or bad procedure. Regardless, the action was not a violation of Wyoming Election law, as used in the manner explained.
There was no violation of Wyoming Election law regarding Incident Two.
Having concluded the investigation and review into these two specific matters referenced by the letter dated May 15,2019,I find no violation of Wyoming Election Law. Please feel free to contact me to discuss this matter further if you desire.