DERAILED: How Wyoming’s Legislature got off track, and how to steer it back (series intro)

This is the introduction to a four-part series that examines how Wyoming’s Legislature came to focus on hot-button national issues instead of working to solve the very real problems facing our state, and what Wyoming residents need to do about it.

Read Part 1: “The Wyoming Legislature’s 2022 trainwreck budget session”


Most Wyoming families want the same things: good jobs, access to healthcare, affordable homes, quality schools, and a bright future for themselves and their kids.

Throw in some public lands and a “live and let live” mentality, and you’ve got the basics for a Wyoming most of us can get behind.

But lots of people here are worried, and for good reason.

Homeownership is out of reach for many young Wyoming families, no matter how hard they work. People without job-based health insurance are one major illness away from losing everything to medical debt. 

There’s no stable source of funding for public schools or hospitals, and many young people—including teachers, nurses, and other essential workers—are forced to leave the state to find opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Wyoming Legislature has become increasingly full of lawmakers who prefer to waste time arguing over hot-button national issues rather than addressing the very real problems that affect people’s daily lives right here. 

We, as a state, are capable of turning things around and joining together to build a brighter future for Wyoming. 

But first we have to figure out how we got into this mess.

Who derailed Wyoming’s Legislature?

In a new four-part series, Derailed, Better Wyoming will examine how our state’s Legislature veered off course, and what we need to do to get it back on track. 

We will explore how so many politicians wound up in the Capitol who ignore the state’s most pressing problems at the expense of Wyoming residents.

Far-right politicians and their activist backers—many who newly arrived in the state—have managed in a short time to take control of Wyoming’s major political party and a sizable portion of elected seats. 

They have accomplished this goal by stirring up voters with hot-button national issues that dominate social media, and by focusing laserlike attention on the primary elections, which are often won or lost by a handful of votes.

These political operatives have effectively brought the hysteria of social media to the ballot box, and they have won. 

Now, the Internet trolls are writing Wyoming’s laws.

Things are bad. They could be worse.

The 2022 Legislature’s budget session was a clown show, and it’s only a taste of what’s to come if things don’t change. 

Primary elections decide the makeup of 90 percent of our state government.

Politicians all but ignored their two main jobs: crafting a budget that puts public money where it’s needed most, and redrawing election district lines according to the new 2020 U.S. Census.

Instead, legislators literally spent days and days arguing over Critical Race Theory, abortion, transgender students, which gun freedom bill is the most free, and the University of Wyoming’s gender studies program.

As a result, the Legislature barely had time to slap together a budget propped up with federal emergency relief funding, and they bungled the “redistricting” process so badly that the governor wouldn’t even sign off on it.

But things could be worse—and they will be if Wyoming voters continue to stay at home and let a small group of radicals pick our leaders.

The elections that count

How do Wyomingites get representation in the Legislature that better reflects our values? It’s simple: More Wyomingites need to vote in the elections that count. 

Primary elections decide the makeup of 90 percent of our state government. Across deep-red Wyoming, there are only a handful of legislative contests and precisely zero statewide offices that are decided in November. 

The real elections take place in August, but hardly anyone votes in them. In 2018, the most recent non-presidential election year, only 30 percent of voting-age Wyomingites cast a ballot.

The people who do vote in primaries are disproportionately hardline local party members, or others who are mobilized by extreme groups that use phony claims to gin up panic. 

Thankfully, Wyoming lawmakers who reflect our state’s values have taken a stand on one issue: Keeping our elections open and free, including the primaries. 

Voting in Wyoming primaries is simple. Anyone can vote in whichever election they think will make the biggest impact, and you can change your voting information at the polls at the same time you cast a ballot.

This isn’t a question of some conspiracy to “cheat” elections. We simply need more Wyoming residents—in general, of all political stripes—to turn out and vote in the elections that matter, instead of letting a small group of hardliners decide who runs the show.

We’ve been taught since we were children that Election Day is in November. But it’s not. Not in Wyoming, and not this year, at least.

If we want lawmakers who will show up and work for Wyoming families, we need to get it through our heads that Election Day is August 16. Then, we need to show up and vote accordingly.

The Wyoming Legislature has become more concerned with squabbling over hot-button national issues than addressing the real problems of our state. In a new series, Better Wyoming looks at how this happened, and what we need to do to get back on track.