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‘Election Integrity and Security’ facts vanish from state website

Previous secretary of state launched a public information campaign following the 2020 election to combat misinformation, boost voter confidence. It’s since gone missing from the web.

Chuck Gray, Secretary of State (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Maggie Mullen, WyoFile

When a new law stripped Wyoming voters of the ability to change party affiliation on Election Day earlier this month, Secretary of State Chuck Gray called it a “pivotal moment for election integrity.”

“Ending crossover voting to protect the integrity of the election process has been our office’s number one priority this session and we worked diligently on its passage,” Gray said in a March 2 press release

A few days later, a collection of facts about election integrity and security published by the previous administration vanished from his agency’s website. The public information campaign had been spearheaded by former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, also a Republican, to address concerns, combat misinformation and boost voter confidence following the 2020 election. 

“This is your trusted source for election information,” the website, archived here, read. “The information below brings to light the truth about the security and accuracy of Wyoming elections and addresses the various myths about the insufficiencies and inaccuracies in Wyoming’s election process.”

Since March 7, a “server error” message appears when attempting to access the now-defunct webpage. “The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable,” it reads. There are no longer links on the site navigating to the page and the information does not appear to be anywhere else on the secretary’s website. 

Secretary Gray ran on an election integrity platform for his first term as the state’s chief elections officer while lobbing unverified claims of “tremendous problems” with Wyoming’s elections. WyoFile did not receive a response by press time to multiple requests of Gray’s spokesman, including questions about the removal of the webpage and what, if any, plans Gray has to combat misinformation.

A graphic depicting different forms of “information pollution,” created by staff under former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan. The graphic, which was part of a public information campaign, was removed from the secretary’s website along with other election integrity and security facts in early March 2023. (Courtesy Wyoming Secretary of State)

New administration

Newly elected officials often revamp their agencies’ websites, Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) said. He pointed to State Auditor Kristi Racines, who launched a new webpage in her first term dedicated exclusively to documenting the state’s expenditures, and Gov. Mark Gordon, who created Wyoming Sense also as a budget transparency tool during his first year in office. Both of those instances were about making additional information accessible to the public. 

“I would say that it was superbly beneficial information to the public to know that our elections are safe and secure,” Zwonitzer said. “I am optimistic that information [will be] put back on the secretary of state’s website as soon as possible.”

Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) called it “troubling” and was disappointed to see Buchanan’s work removed. In addition to the myth-busting website, Buchanan also traveled the state to present the information in person. 

“He went right into the heart of the Republican Party and made those presentations and said, ‘Look, this is wrong,’” Case said.

Before leaving office in 2022 to pursue a judgeship, Buchanan told WyoFile it was critical that he engage the public and make himself available for whatever questions voters might have. 

“I think it’s healthy for citizens to ask questions, and have a curiosity about how their own election systems work,” Buchanan said during a September 2022 interview. “What I don’t think is healthy is taking a national narrative or issues that may or may not have occurred in other states and automatically assuming that Wyoming is the same way.”

In a June 2022 op-ed, Buchanan outlined the lengths his election division went to review claims MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell made about widespread voter fraud in Wyoming. Each of those claims were disproven by elections staff, Buchanan said. 

When asked as a candidate if he would continue Buchanan’s public education efforts if elected, Gray didn’t answer the question directly. 

“I’m not into the talk that we see a lot from politicians,” Gray said. “I don’t do that, I work on focusing on getting things done.”

A diagram of Wyoming’s audit and election results process, created by staff under former Secretary of State Ed Buchanan. The diagram, which was part of a public information campaign, was removed from the secretary’s website along with other election integrity and security facts in early March 2023. (Courtesy Wyoming Secretary of State)

Missing information

Before the webpage disappeared, it detailed the three forms of “information pollution” — misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. 

“Disinformation about election integrity is widespread! In fact, spreading false information is one of the most common methods of attack used by those seeking to disrupt our elections,” it read. 

It also addressed seven common election-related myths, including the misconception that only some voters in Wyoming use a paper ballot. 

“Every voter that votes, whether through filling out a paper ballot by hand or using the touchscreen (ExpressVOTE), has a paper ballot that is cast indicating their ballot choice,” it read. 

It also debunked the theory trumpeted by Lindell that Wyoming’s voting machines are connected to the internet. The state replaced its outdated voting equipment ahead of the 2020 election, none of which has “the hardware or software required to allow internet connectivity nor does the tabulation computer in each county have the hardware or software required to allow internet connectivity.” 

The new machines, selected by a task force made up of lawmakers, county clerks and other election officials, were “more secure and sophisticated than any other voting machines used in the history of Wyoming’s elections.”

The webpage also provided a diagram depicting Wyoming’s audit and election results process. Buchanan’s office worked with the University of Wyoming to pilot an audit using statistical analyses to measure election accuracy. In the case of the 2022 primary election, about 3,000 ballots were selected at random for the statistical audit — all of which were adjudicated with 100% accuracy. 

The webpage also called on voters to stand up against misinformation by “spreading facts” and getting involved, such as by volunteering as a poll worker. 

“Be vigilant and understand that misinformation spreads like wildfire, but together we can snuff out the flames and actively participate in elections with confidence,” it read. 

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.