More than half of Albany County voters participated in Tuesday’s primary by casting absentee ballots instead of voting in-person.
Of a total 7,997 votes cast, a total of 4,178 absentee ballots were counted by mail in the primary election compared to 2,928 votes cast at polling places. An additional 891 ballots were cast early at the Albany County Courthouse’s elections building.
That’s a significant jump from absentee participation 2016 where the Albany County Clerk’s office saw 1,078 absentee ballot requests. A total of 7,882 votes were cast in that year’s primary election.
In June, Wyoming’s Secretary of State sent out a letter to voters encouraging them to use mail-in ballot options amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kayla White, Albany County deputy clerk, said the increase in absentee ballot participation could be attributed to the state’s encouragement.
“Some people forget about the primary,” White said. “Maybe it prompted some people to vote.”
The clerk’s office received back absentee ballots from more than 85% of voters who requested a ballot, which Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales said was “huge.”
With several competitive races on both sides of the ballot, Democrats turned out in larger numbers than in 2016 while Republican turnout dropped. A total of 3,523 Democratic ballots were cast in 2020 compared to 2,374 in 2016. Republican voters cast 4,139 ballots in this year’s primary compared to 5,128 in 2016. Democrats also participated in absentee voting at a higher rate than Republicans, casting 2,328 by absentee and 410 early votes, compared to 1,699 by absentee and 440 early voters.
Fewer polling locations and social distancing measures made things in Tuesday’s election a unique challenge, but Gonzales said overall things went well. She said her office would review notes and suggestions from election judges to see how the process might be improved leading up to the Nov. 3 general election.
For Gonzales, a moment at the Indian Paintbrush Elementary school polling place spoke volumes about Tuesday’s election.
“There was a new voter who cast a ballot for the first time, and the judges announced, ‘New voter’ — everyone was caught by surprise and cheered,” Gonzales said with a smile. “That in itself is democracy at its best.”
The state’s most crowded legislative race still doesn’t have an official winner on the Republican side.
The House District 14 GOP primary had five candidates, but Republican Matthew Burkhart came out on top with 255 votes, or 26.53%. Runner up Katrina Cox came in with 253 votes in Tuesday’s tally, or 26.33%. That triggered a recount as directed to the clerk’s office by the secretary of state, which took place Wednesday morning with both candidates present.
The recount total gave Cox one extra vote, bringing her total to 254, still short of Burkhart. With provisional votes potentially still waiting to be counted, Cox said she would wait until the results of Friday’s canvassing board before making a decision whether to concede or not.
“I’m going to hold out a little bit longer and see what happens,” she told the Boomerang Wednesday afternoon.
The Republican nominee of that race will face off against Democrat Trey Sherwood, who trounced her primary opponent in Tuesday’s election. While the district has long been a Republican stronghold, it appears to be anybody’s race between two political newcomers, whatever the results of Friday’s canvassing board for the GOP.
All nine of the candidates for Laramie City Council advanced in Tuesday’s primary. While the votes were effectively inconsequential, many did mark boxes for city council candidates, possibly giving an indication of how November’s election could go.
Vice Mayor Pat Gabriel in Ward 3 received the most votes at 1,181, followed by Councilwoman Jayne Pearce’s 1,128 in Ward 2, then by newcomer Sharon Cumbie’s 1,107, also in Ward 2, and Councilman Brian Harrington’s 1,068 in Ward 1.
Harrington in Ward 1 was followed up by former Laramie mayor Andi Summerville, who garnered 946 votes in the primary. Summerville’s 2018 re-election bid was narrowly thwarted by then-newcomer, now-Councilwoman Jessica Stalder. Newcomers Kaleb Heien and Brett Glass received 461 and 411 votes respectively in the primary.
In Ward 2, local firebrand Tim Hale garnered the fewest votes with 570. Former Councilman Klaus Hanson, the only other candidate in Ward 3, received 803 votes.
Two candidates from Ward 1 will be seated on council. One candidate from wards 2 and 3 will be seated following November’s election.