A bill that would call for runoff elections in Wyoming Primary Elections in which a candidate does not get a majority of the vote has been filed for the upcoming session of the Wyoming Legislature.

You can read House Bill 74 here. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Chip Neiman [R-Crook, Weston counties] and several co-sponsors.

If it becomes law, the bill would move the initial primary election from the current August date to May. The runoff election would be held between the top two vote-getters in the first round of balloting.

The bill would not apply to general election results, only primaries. In deeply Republican Wyoming,  GOP primary elections are often the determining factor in who eventually holds office

Former President Trump in 2021 urged Wyoming to adopt a runoff election system to ensure that Trump-nemesis Rep. Liz Cheney would not be renominated this year with a plurality against multiple opponents.

But HB 74 would not take effect until July of 2023, or in time for Wyoming's 2024 primary elections. It would therefore not impact Cheney's 2022 re-election bid.

Supporters of a runoff election system often point to the state's 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary election. In that race, then-State Treasurer Mark Gordon, who was widely perceived as the most moderate candidate, defeated arch-conservative Foster Friess and several other candidates thought to be politically to Gordon's right.

Gordon won with about a third of the vote, and Friess supporters thought their candidate would have won a runoff matchup with Gordon by getting most of the votes that went to the other candidates in the race in a head-to-head race.

But critics of runoff elections say that historically, runoffs in states which have that system tend to draw poor voter turnout for the runoff. Some critics also worry that a long primary process possibly involving two primary election campaigns will result in "election fatigue'' and a general tendency among voters to stop paying attention to the candidates or the issues.

House Bill 74 would apply to elections for governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state superintendent, and state legislature as well as federal offices [U.S Senate and the U.S. House].

It would not apply to non-partisan races or city/county elections such as county commission seats.

The move to a May primary election date would require a constitutional amendment for the legislature "to reapportion its members in order to accommodate holding primary elections in May and subsequent runoff elections as necessary." 

That would require a constitutional amendment. To implement that, Neiman has also filed House Joint Resolution 3 for the upcoming session.

The legislature is slated to convene a 20-day budget session on Feb. 14 in Cheyenne. Non-budget items such as HB 74 will need a 2/3 majority vote for introduction in the session.

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