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Wyoming GOP Cracks Down On Do-Nothing Committee Members


The Wyoming Republican Party struck up a new policy at the state convention earlier this month to cut down on the number of precinct committee people who don’t show up for meetings.

The policy says anyone who misses three meetings in a year will be removed.

But Park County GOP State Committeeman Vince Vanata told WyoFile, “This is not booting or kicking out people from the party,” adding that he’s seen members get selected and not show up to a single meeting over the course of their two-year term.

The new bylaw states, “When a precinct person absents himself from three meetings in a 365-day period that person shall be considered to have vacated his seat at the conclusion of the third meeting.”

At that point, another precinct person would be appointed using the same process as when a precinct person dies, resigns or moves out of the precinct.

“We’re just trying to put a mechanism in place so that we can be an effective organization,” Vanata said.

Last fall, the Park County GOP voted to remove over 20 of its precinct committeemen and women for repeated absences after it had changed its county-level bylaws in late 2022, according to The Powell Tribune. That included prominent members like former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, his son and former Speaker of the Wyoming House Colin Simpson and Powell Mayor John Wetzel.

There’s at least one problem with the new statewide bylaw, Colin Simpson, an attorney, told WyoFile.

“It’s illegal,” Simpson said.

Simpson pointed to a section of state statute that specifies when a vacancy “shall” occur.

State law holds that a “vacancy in the county central committee shall occur in the case of death, resignation, failure of a qualified candidate to be elected to a precinct committeeman or committeewoman position, or removal of a residence from the precinct.”

The vacancy will be filled, according to the statute, “by election” or as provided by the party bylaws.

“But I also believe that the state party would like someone to challenge [the bylaw] so they can challenge the constitutionality of that statute,” Simpson said. “Because the state party’s whole position is: They’re a private organization, they can do whatever they want.”

Republicans in recent years have debated the role the state should play in governing political parties that are also private organizations.

In 2023, the Wyoming Supreme Court weighed in, signaling in its decision that bylaws created by county political parties do not supplant state statutes.

If the new bylaw is applied to a precinct committee person in the coming months, they would have the option to run for the seat in August.

The candidate filing period runs May 16-31.

“People will run. They’ll vote. They’ll be active,” Simpson said. “If they don’t care, they won’t.”

The primary election is Aug. 20. Voter registration is now open. The last day registered voters can change their party affiliation is May 15.

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