Rod Miller, the ultimate anti-Republican opinion slinger from the Cowboy State Daily, felt the need to wade into Sheridan County's Commissioner vacancy. Put on your waders, folks, because the bull excrement is deep. Here's the link:
Our rejoinder to Rod:
Yup, Rod, you’re right! There go those crazy Sheridan Republicans, again, insisting on things being done right. What a crazy concept! In the case you mention, the electorate did its prescribed duty under statute. You also pointed out our government officials, sworn to uphold and abide by the law, did not. Our thanks for that. Should we not be dismayed by elected officials refusing to obey statute? Our government expects us to follow the law. That is a reciprocal arrangement. While we very much appreciate you bringing the topic to light, here are some rejoinders and facts to amplify your positions.
Imagine the shoe was on the left foot, and the vacancy on our county commission was created by the departure of a Democratic party commissioner? The same process would apply. In a state whose politics are so dominated by Republicans, would it be appropriate for the putatively three remaining Republican commission members to disqualify said nominees? Of course not!
Are Republican Party politics currently fractious? Yes. The party is undergoing a rather significant evolution in its ideals and expectations of its leaders. The transformation is driven by the grassroots to bring the government into alignment with the will of the people. It’s what happens when more and more formerly uninvolved citizens take an active role in their government.
To the main thrust of your opinion piece: Do we need to evolve our processes for elections and vacancy filling? Maybe. It is surely a topic for a larger conversation, but we point out that the process we have is rather similar to other states, see Kentucky for the latest example. Currently the Democratic governor of Kentucky is publicly questioning whether or not he shall abide by the will of the people, as expressed through their elected representatives, to choose a replacement senator, if necessary, from the same party as Sen. McConnell, which is according to their state statute.
There are some fundamental items we want to address in your piece, so to further inform some of your opinions with some salient facts, here are some items to amplify your understanding:
1.) Let’s start from the proper basis in law in the Sheridan case. The law governing filling temporary vacancies in county commissions is under the law governing county commissions (Title 18), not the election law (Title 22). The temporary vacancy statute governs how Wyoming county commissions maintain their full complement of commissioners, and do so with respect to the party from which that commissioner was nominated and elected.
2.) The statute explicitly puts the purview for qualifying the nominees on the party, not the Board of County Commissioners. The BOCC only gets to choose from the three qualified nominees. They do not get to qualify or disqualify them, only to choose one of the names. They don’t have to like it, they just have to do it.
3.) The nominees put forth were as qualified as any of the other commissioners. They were residents of the county at the time of their nomination, and they were chosen by the representatives of the electorate at large. Happily, the nominees were also the next three highest vote-getters in the primary election. They were thus further ratified by the entire party central committee in an open meeting where each of the nominees was voted on in successive rounds, ensuring each of the nominees received 50% of the vote of 91 elected precinct committee members in attendance. As we have 104 precinct committee members, this was a robust turnout. This is textbook governance process in a republic, by the way.
5.) We appreciate you acknowledging the county commissioners broke the law. We also agree the process could use refinement. As it stands now, a single individual from the judiciary will decide. While a satisfactory statutory outcome, perhaps, it is the antithesis of the democratic process of government of, by, and for the people.
6.) We are surprised you didn’t acknowledge the fact that the judge chose to defer to the party in pursuit of this issue, and is considering which of the three nominees put forward to the BOCC she will choose.
7.) Snap elections in a county are pretty difficult to pull off. Can you name another state or county in the United States that does that in under 40 days? The laws in question here are not bad laws as they combine solid citizen representation, a micro-version of the republican form of government established in the U.S. and Wyoming Constitutions, with reasonable cost expenditures in time and our tax dollars as we agree that holding elections are expensive. In fact, in a special election, only those with lots of money are likely to win as time to campaign and get word out is minimal, but money can buy ads. So how is that any better?
8.) Your example of having another county bonded and elected official break the tie is less than ideal. Would it be appropriate to have the Secretary of State cast a tie-breaking vote in the legislature because the Speaker or President had stepped down? Would you prefer that someone from Colorado choose a Wyoming state official if the Wyoming governor won't? The question really ties to the much more significant issue of separation of powers. The process exists to ensure the vacancy is filled from within the appropriate governmental branch. If any old body would do, then what’s the point of electing people to fill certain roles vested with specified powers?
Representative government cannot be a spectator sport. In Sheridan, we are very pleased to see more and more people taking an active interest and role in the affairs of their government at all levels.
If you are fed up and want to take part in making a difference, please consider donating to our Government Accountability Legal Action Fund. Click here.