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Voters cast their ballots Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, at North Christian Church in north Cheyenne. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of vote centers in Laramie County was reduced from 13 to seven this year. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – With the start of absentee and early voting for Wyoming’s general election less than a week away, Laramie County officials have already seen more ballot requests than in any prior election, marking yet another sign of change brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than a third of registered voters in the county have already requested absentee ballots, which they’ll be able to submit starting Sept. 18. Those wishing to vote early in person can cast their ballots starting that day at the Laramie County Governmental Complex downtown.

While the typical election draws about 2,800 requests for absentee ballots in Laramie County, that number for the Nov. 3 general was already approaching 13,000 last week, according to Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee.

“This is the largest number of (absentee) ballots we’ve ever sent for a single election, and voters are still requesting them,” Lee said.

The precautions taken against the spread of COVID-19 during the August primary will also carry over to the general election. Kai Schon, election divisions director for the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office, told lawmakers Friday that, as during the primary, there will be personal protective equipment for poll workers and hand sanitizer for all voters to use.

“We are positioned for success, and we’ll have on-site support, as we did in the primary, in every one of our counties,” Schon told members of the Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. “That’ll be the day before, the day of and the day after the election. That proved to be very valuable in our primary election.”

Ballots are already being printed and delivered to county clerks across the state. Asked by a lawmaker about Wyoming’s susceptibility to a cybersecurity attack, Schon was confident in Wyoming’s ability to avoid any foreign interference in its elections process, noting some attacks by Russia in 2016 were against states’ voter registration systems.

“We’ve got security upon security wrapped around that, and we’ve added more since (the 2016 election),” Schon said. “All of our voting equipment, as well as where results are reported and collated, they do not touch the internet. ... We don’t have an online election results system, so no foreign actor could even begin to try to manipulate those results.”

For people who vote absentee, Schon said they can check on the status of their mailed-in ballot by calling their county clerk’s office. For Laramie County residents who want to register, update their registration or request an absentee ballot, the local Voter Service Center will be open from 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. from Sept. 18 through Oct 19. The Voter Service Center is located in Room 1200 of the Laramie County Governmental Complex, north of the atrium.

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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