Joining fellow voters across the country, Park County residents will head to the polls today (Tuesday) to help decide many national, state and local races.
Beyond weighing in on Wyoming’s next governor and two of the state’s three members of Congress, local voters will pick between multiple candidates for the Wyoming Legislature, the Powell City Council and for boards that oversee Powell’s K-12 schools, Northwest College, Crown Hill Cemetery and the Powell-Clarks Conservation District.
More than 16,300 Park County residents had registered to vote as of last week. By Monday afternoon, 3,411 people had already voted by mailing in absentee ballots or by voting at the Park County Courthouse.
Based solely off the number of absentee ballots cast, local voter turnout may be up from the last midterm election in 2014, which was one of the worst on record.
“It looks like we’re up; it’s feeling like we’re up,” Park County Clerk Colleen Renner said of the turnout. “[Election Day] will be a big decider when we see how busy we are at the polls.”
The elections office had a couple snafus with incorrect absentee ballots in the Cody and Frannie area school board races, but re-issued those ballots and took other steps to address the problem.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and voters can register at the polls with their driver’s license.
“Voters in Wyoming have flexibility in choosing when to register and vote, so there is no excuse not to vote,” said Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, whose office oversees state elections.
Powell area voters cast their ballots at the Park County Fairgrounds, Garland voters gather at the Garland Community Church, Ralston and Heart Mountain area residents vote at Mountain View Clubhouse, and Clark community members vote at the Clark Pioneer Recreation Center.
The “big ticket” items at the top of the ballot — for Congress and the statewide races for governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and superintendent of public instruction — are generally contested, though Republicans are favored to sweep the posts.
Heading into the election, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 4:1 in the state and nearly 9:1 in Park County.
The 10 county positions up for election this year — including three seats on the Park County Commission — are all uncontested, with only Republicans in the running. Outside of Lloyd Thiel of Clark and Dossie Overfield of Cody, who are seeking to join the commission, the other county-level candidates are incumbents.
Some of the local legislative races are also a little sleepy.
After defeating incumbent state Sen. Ray Peterson of Cowley in the Republican primary, no one is opposing R.J. Kost’s bid to join the state Senate. The retired Powell teacher is poised to become the next lawmaker for Senate District 19, which includes northern Big Horn County.
Similarly, Reps. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, and Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull, are unopposed in their bids to continue representing House districts 25 and 26, respectively.
There are a couple of contested races, however, that are near-repeats of the 2016 election
Democrat Mike Specht of Clark is again attempting to unseat Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, in House District 50. And in Cody, Republican Sandy Newsome and Democrat Paul Fees are each hoping to become the next representative for House District 24; they had come up short of Rep. Scott Court, R-Cody, two years ago.
At the city level, Powell voters will have multiple choices at every position.
Powell Mayor John Wetzel and city councilmen Scott Mangold and Tim Sapp enjoyed comfortable margins of victory in August’s primary election, but their challengers — Ryan Miller, Michael Newton and Tawnya Peterson respectively — will be looking to reverse the results today. Steve Lensegrav, meanwhile, will be looking to join the council after a strong showing of support in the primary; fellow Ward I contender Ernie Phipps, said after the primary that he’d be voting for Lensegrav. The two are seeking to replace departing Councilman Eric Paul.
Five candidates, meanwhile, are seeking four seats on the Powell school board. Incumbents Greg Borcher, Lillian Brazelton, Don Hansen and Trace Paul are asking voters for another four years in office, while Nathan Lind hopes to join the board.
Voters must also make a choice on the Northwest College Board of Trustees, as Karen Elton is challenging incumbents Carolyn Danko and Dusty Spomer in the race for two Powell area seats. Meanwhile, state Rep. Scott Court, R-Cody, is seeking to move from the Legislature to the college board, making a bid to replace John Housel as a Cody area representative.
The Crown Hill Cemetery District Board of Trustees features a rare contested race this year, with longtime board members Clarence Anderson, Jim Beavers and John Karst seeking to keep their seats and newcomer Brian James seeking to replace one of them.
There’s also competition for the Powell-Clarks Fork Conservation district board.
Sandra Frost is challenging Frank Palazzolo to represent city of Powell residents on the board, while Greg Mayton is challenging Anthony Spiering for an at-large seat. Incumbent Regan Smith is unopposed in his bid to keep his seat representing rural residents.
Other races feature only incumbents on the ballot.
For instance, Jerry Faxon, Gerald “Bear” May and Kelly Spiering are set to keep their spots on the Powell fire board.
Similarly, four incumbents — R.J. Kost, Jim Carlson, Beth Gilb and Gerri Ackley — are looking to continue serving on the Powell Hospital District board. Ackley doesn’t appear on the ballot because she missed the filing deadline, but she’s hoping people take the time to write in her name so she can stay on the board.
Voters across the Big Horn Basin will also decide whether they want to retain the two judges who primarily serve Park County: Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters and District Court Judge Bill Simpson, both of Cody.
In a news release last week, secretary Buchanan assured Wyoming voters that the state’s elections are secure. He noted the various precautions that are taken — including the fact that Wyoming’s voting systems are never connected to the internet.
“Wyoming’s citizens will be given every possible opportunity to cast a ballot because Wyoming elections are run with the utmost integrity from beginning to end,” Buchanan said, adding that, “every voter can be confident that their vote will be counted and counted accurately — one person, one vote, no exceptions.”
Anyone with questions about the elections process can visit www.parkcountyelections.net or call the Park County Clerk’s elections office at 754-8620.