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Three Wyoming Democrats Take a Stand for Democracy

Weekly Comment: The Long Road to Democracy

Three Wyoming Democrats Take a Stand for Democracy

They Ask for and Get a Recount in a Very Tight House Race

By Michael Collins
Sheridan, Wyoming
Washington, DC

Three citizens of Sheridan County, Wyoming had a big question shortly after the mid term election for Wyoming’s 1st and only Congressional district. Why did the shift to the Democratic candidate in their county lag behind the rest of the state? Democrat Trauner came within 1,012votes of defeating Republican Cubin in one of the closest finishes in the country. Wyoming is Republican country but this year it was anything but that. This seat in the U.S. House of Representatives was in play.

Downtown Sheridan, Wyoming built in the early 1900's. Sheridan County is proud of its Western heritage and modern amenities including museums, theaters, sophisticated health care providers and diverse shopping

A 16 year resident of Wyoming, Gary Trauner in an entrepreneur who currently runs the Internet Service Provider His opponent, Barbara Cubin, was first elected in the Republican sweep of Congress in 1994.

A Wyoming native and chemist by training, Cubin worked as a teacher, social worker and chemist before entering Congress. Over the years, she moved into politics and ran successfully for the House. Some of her positions are typical of the Gingrich led Republican class of ’94. She decries waste in the Federal government, proposes expanding health care access by reducing malpractice law suits, and repeats the key talking point of more tax cut despite record deficits. On immigration, her rhetoric is highly provocative. Her web site states: On September 11th the terrorists used our own flawed immigration laws against us to help them murder thousands of American citizens. The American people will never be truly safe until we get serious about border security.

From his stand on the issues, Trauner ran as a moderate to progressive sounding Democrat who was open about his stand on key social issues. He was unambiguously pro choice. He refused to bash immigrants and endorsed a health care system that provides some level of coverage to all citizens. With statements like this, it was clear that Trauner was not running form his party identification. Speaking on energy policy, he said, The federal government has a long history of promoting the national interest by aiding in the development of sources of energy. He also said, I believe medical decisions, including those surrounding life and death, should be between individuals, family members and the ethical medical professionals they choose to consult. Trauner is a straight shooter who said he was pro choice, pro federal research, and pro gun rights at the same place and the same time.

The Trauner – Cubin contest was decided by a margin of 1012 votes. While close, the race did not generate an automatic recount under Wyoming election law. Initially Trauner questioned the Sheridan County numbers since the county’s educated, moderately progressive character argued for a stronger showing. He chose to not seek a recount and he is not the originator of the citizen effort. But the Jackson Hole News quotes Trauner as supporting citizen action: If citizens want to exercise their constitutional and legal right to ensure our elections are accurate, great. But obviously I don't have anything to do with this.

Gary Trauner, Dem. & Barbara Cubin, Rep

State Board of Elections

Liz Howell looked at these figures and had questions serious enough to pursue a recount through her own efforts. Could voting machines malfunction misrepresent the Sheridan vote? Howell is Democrat and was joined by two additional party members, Jane Vanvig and Hardy Tate. They took advantage of the states pro-citizen public records access laws. This allows citizens to examine public documents, in this case election ballots. They are supported by a Jackson Hole, WY blogger who said, Is anyone else out there concerned about the fact that the last three elections in our country have led to so many recounts, verifications and the like? Planet Jackson Hole Blog

The recount effort is unique in several ways. First, the state election recount law only allows the retabulation of optical scan or touch screen results. In the case of optical scan ballots, candidates are not allowed to do a full hand recount of the paper ballots. Sheridan County used ES&S optical scan/Automark voting machines. Taurner showed his high tech background when he told the Jackson Hole News, Recounting by sticking the ballots back through the same machine doesn't make sense to me. I don't know the reason behind passing the law, but to me, why have a paper trail if you can’t use it?

Despite the lack of rancor or bitterness, the recount is attracting considerable attention. Associated Press successfully appealed to the local board of elections to open the recount to the press.

Should the results remain unchanged; the entire process will be another example of responsible citizens pursuing their rights under state law; something that happens every day throughout the United States. If their recount does actually change the final result, it will demonstrate that the state’s restrictive recount law (which bars a true hand recount) led to an undemocratic outcome. Democrat Trauner needs to pick up 507 votes for shift to a numeric victory. Trauner is past the filing period for an election contest in the U.S. House of Representatives. He’s well beyond his post election speculation about a recount. Should these three extraordinary ordinary citizens show that the machines failed, they would have accomplished something others have worked years to achieve.

Liz Powell, Hardy Tate, and Jane Vanvig deserve an A+ for exceptional effort in behalf of free and fair elections however this turns out.


Appendix: Links and Wyoming Election Law

Some links:
Trauner Applauds Sheridan County Recount Effort
Local Dems Plan House Recount Sheridan Recount to be Open to Media
Trauner: Change Law to Allow Hand Recount
Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce
Planet Jackson Hole Blog
The Sheridan Press

22-16-109. Recounts.

(a) The county canvassing board shall make a recount of precinct votes if it appears to the board that a recount is required due to irregularities in that precinct. (Note: Sheridan County election officials declined to do this after a citizen request.)

(b) There shall be a recount made of all the votes cast for any office in which the difference in number of votes cast for the winning candidate receiving the least number of votes and the number of votes cast for the losing candidate receiving the greatest number of votes is less than one percent (1%) of the number of votes cast for the winning candidate receiving the least number of votes cast for that office. This recount shall be made in the entire district in which the candidates are standing for election. (Note: Total votes in 1st District race 193,369; difference 1012 or 0.5 %.)

(c) There shall be a recount made of all the votes cast for any office if a losing candidate requests one under provision of W.S. 22-16-110. This recount shall be made in the entire district in which the candidate is standing for election. (Note: Democrat Trauner rightly chose not to seek a recount since all that was involved was a retabulation using the same machines that came up with the original totals.)


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