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CHEYENNE – A bill to close off the state’s primary ballots to party switchers made its way to the House floor Tuesday after an attempt in the Senate failed to gain any traction.

House Bill 106, sponsored by Rep. Jim Blackburn, R-Cheyenne, originally would have shut out any registered voter from voting in the primary if they switched their party affiliation after May 1.

But in the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Tuesday morning, Chairman Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, was able to amend the bill to close the primary to any registered voter who switched parties within two weeks of the election.

“I do think there is an issue. But I think it’s the same-day (party switchers),” Lindholm said in committee. “Talk to our poll workers, our poll judges, that’s what they’re seeing. So while this might not be as appetizing for you Rep. Blackburn or some of the folks here, I do think this gets more to the point.”

That change was enough to gain support of several members, including Lindholm, who were opposed to shutting down a primary before voters even had a chance to know who was running. Blackburn said he considered the change a friendly amendment and supported the date change.

Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette, who supported the original language, said he would support the amendment to get it on the House floor for a full debate.

There was discussion in committee, and in previous attempts at passing a primary-closing bill in the Senate, that it would be best to wait until the interim to take the issue up. But Clem said if the bill wasn’t on the House floor for a debate, there was no guarantee that Management Council would decide to make the issue a focus of the interim.

By putting it on the floor, it assured lawmakers would have a chance to debate and make it a priority for the interim if this bill didn’t succeed, Clem said.

Another attempt in the Senate to pass similar legislation headed to the Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee on Tuesday night. Senate File 160, sponsored by Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, was assigned to that committee after Biteman’s previous bill to close the primary, Senate File 32, was killed in the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee last week.

Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said Friday he would assign any new bill seeking to restrict primary voting to another committee because membership of the Corporations committee were so opposed to the idea.

SF 160 would shut out the primary to any registered voter who tried to switch parties less than two weeks before absentee ballots for the primary election were mailed.

The results of the hearing for SF 160 occurred after press time. Check out WyomingNews.com on Wednesday for an update on the hearing.

Ramsey Scott is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3124 or rscott@wyomingnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RamseyWyoming.

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