News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
More than 3,400 voted absentee in election Nov. 6
Nov 9, 2012 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
One in five voters in Fremont County voted absentee in the Nov. 6 election. According to unofficial results, voters cast 17,078 votes in the county, and 3,418 of those were absentee.
Those voters joined President Barack Obama and some 30 million others around the country who cast an absentee ballot or voted early in person. Obama was the first president to vote before election day, and 30 million early voters is a record for the nation.
The number of absentee ballots in Fremont County, however, was nothing new.
"It's about right on for past presidential elections," Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese said.
At the Fremont County Clerk's office, officials on Nov. 6 had tallied votes from the county's polling stations before election workers had finished counting absentee ballots. The addition of absentee votes changed the margins in some races but did not affect any outcome.
Absentee votes turned the Wyoming State House 33 race from a close one to a nail-biter. Not including absentee votes, incumbent Democrat Patrick Goggles led Republican Jim Allen 1,330 to 1,188, a margin of more than 5 percent.
Allen, though, led Goggles in absentee votes 259 to 143. Including those ballots, Goggles's lead dropped to just 26 votes or about 0.7 percent.
Absentee votes added to the majority of "yes" votes for the optional 1 percent sales tax. Not counting absentees, the tax would have passed 6,637 to 6,497, a difference of less than 1 percent.
Adding absentee votes, the margin jumped to just over two percentage points, the totals being 7,408 to 7,723.
The margin in House District 55 race also increased with the addition of absentee ballots, though it was never close. Republican David Miller's lead over challenger Sherry Shelley increased from 20.7 percent to 22.09 and from 684 to 838 votes. Absentee votes in that race accounted for more than a third of all ballots cast.
Absentee votes did change how candidates placed in board of trustees races in Fremont County School Districts 14, 21 and 38. Who earned the seats remained unchanged.
The three candidates who got the most votes in each race won seats on the boards. Absentee votes changed the order of finish but did not cause anyone to move into the top three who was not already in it based on polling station votes.
In Wyoming, voters can vote absentee in person at county clerk's offices up to 40 days before an election. Voters also can request an absentee ballot by mail or e-mail and return it by mail or in person before 7 p.m. on election day.
Voters do not need to explain why they want to vote absentee, Freese said.
"We have no-excuse absentee voting," she said.
Freese said she thinks some people vote absentee if they will be out of town on election day or if they anticipate some other scheduling conflict. She thinks some just want to vote early, though, and that is permitted.
Voters can cast ballots early by voting absentee, but officials don't tally absentee ballots until election day.