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Monday, March 30, 2020

Cheyenne, Laramie Co. need to step up while governor puts dozens of Wyoming lives in jeopardy

BY D. REED ECKHARDT     

So Gov. Mark Gordon is moving on from “pretty please” government to “trust the people to do the right thing” government. Right. As if that approach worked in other states, which have unhappily faced the realities of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that without stern state-at-home orders, their residents are not willing to make a real effort to stop the spread of this often-fatal virus. 
            Asked on the radio Monday whether he was considering putting a similar order in place, the governor first
Projected number of Wyoming deaths. See model mentioned below.
 
pretended that what he is doing in Wyoming is similar to what other states are doing with those orders. Not so. 
It is true that he has “asked” the people of Wyoming to not gather in groups of 10 or more and closed such things as restaurants, bars and personal services. But there are no teeth to his orders. 
Instead, the governor has tried to use gentle persuasion. All he has to do is the check out pushback from the Cowboy State’s conservative types on social media and check the polls to see that too many residents do not believe this is anything more serious than a cold or, at worse, the regular flu. (Fact check: COVID-19 is at least 10 times more deadly than the standard flu and much more contagious).
The people of Wyoming are not going to take Gordon seriously until he takes firm action that shows how dangerous this all is. Right now he pandering both to those companies that want to stay open and to the political right by speaking softly and carrying no stick. That simply is not going to work.
The numbers clearly show Wyoming is headed big trouble if it doesn’t take this more seriously. That was made even clearer Monday when the Wyoming Medical Society urged the governor to act. He ignored the advice of the experts as well.
Here’s the deal: It is true that up to now the spread of COVID-19 has been a “blue state” problem. But a fresh analysis at FiveThirtyEight  (https://53eig.ht/3bDyHVA) shows the spread of the virus actually is growing faster now in red states, such as Wyoming. 
Indeed, the Cowboy State has the 19th fastest rate of increase with its case numbers rising more than 104 percent between March 23 and March 26. States like New Mexico, where I am currently living and where a stay-at-home order is in place, is up 72 percent. That is nothing to brag about, but it still is 31 percent below Wyoming’s rate.
The potential impacts of all of this are considerable. 
Take a look at this model, which experts say is similar to the one that finally awoke President Trump to the realities of all of this (https://bit.ly/3bH0fsT). It estimates Wyoming could have as many as 264 deaths before all is said and done or as few as 48, depending on how quickly measures to flatten the curve are put into place. The current projection is for 132 deaths of our friends, families and neighbors.
Similarly, the graphic indicates that more ICU beds will be needed than currently are available even on the current curve. The only way to reduce that pressure on the hospitals, of course, is to act, and to act now.
It is encouraging that Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr spoke up over the weekend to say she believes a stay-at-home order is needed. As the mayor of the state’s largest city, she surely sees the potential for Cheyenne Regional Medical Center to be overwhelmed. And the mayor of Casper also has threatened to put an order in place if people don’t stop fooling around, just as the Town of Jackson did last week.
If Gordon continues to beg, wheedle and dither, it will be up to localities to act, just as the nation’s other governors have acted despite Trump’s previous unwillingness to get tough.
Orr must call the Cheyenne City Council into emergency session and get a stay-at-home order in place for the Capital City. If nothing else, perhaps that will encourage Gordon to take things seriously. 
Similarly, the Laramie County Commission should meet with Health Officer Dr. Stan Hartman and take similar action. There are about 35,000 residents outside of the city who travel to Cheyenne to do most of their business. It will do no good for the city to act if the county will not back up that action.
The aforementioned model shows that if things go completely awry, Wyoming will need 107 ICU beds (it has just 44) as well as 86 ventilators. And it is obvious Cheyenne will bear much of the brunt of that.
The time to act is now, not when things get worse and it will be ever harder to flatten the curve. If Gordon won’t budge, then leadership in Cheyenne and Laramie County must do so by issuing stay-at-home orders and enforcing them with police and sheriff’s deputies. 
Yes, I know, the political right will cry about a police state and loss of rights and all of that. And others will point out that going it alone will not stop outsiders from coming into the community.
Regardless, something has to be done to try to protect our friends, families and neighbors from the spread of this deadly virus. Even Trump finally has seen the realities of where this is heading, so what is holding Gordon and other leaders back? Forget political pushback. Stop fretting about re-election. Accept that there is going to be some economic pain.
Do your jobs, Gov. Mark Gordon, Mayor Marian Orr and County Commission Chairman Troy Thompson. Or are you all willing to sacrifice dozens of your fellow residents on the twin altars of politics and the economy?

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Yes, friend, if you are out exercising your “rights” during this pandemic, you ARE being selfish

“I never thought I'd see the day where one would need to have papers to drive down the road freely in our country … I would have also never guessed that so many people would willingly give up their rights and want and expect the government to take care of them. In our great country, freedom requires people to be responsible … When that doesn't happen there are consequences, but what many are arguing for right now is a police state. … I don't want anyone to die, and I'm offended that just because I don't want what you want that I'm selfish and that I don't care about human life. … You are not a hero for self-quarantining … and if that is you doing your part - I dig it, but don't judge me if I'm not doing what you're doing. …” — a Facebook friend in Cheyenne

BY D. REED ECKHARDT

            Over the past several days I have lost friendships and offended strangers as I have defended my recent post urging Gov. Mark Gordon to issue a stay-at-home order for Wyoming. (https://bit.ly/2WHFcSZ
Nothing that had been said in response to my post has moved me one iota. And while it’s easy to see where President Trump is going with his plan to ease restrictions in some locations (surely Wyoming will be one of them), I believe
COVID-19 testing in Pennsylvania.
that is a formula only for a lengthened COVID-19 assault and hundreds of more deaths. Shutting things down to flatten the curve only makes sense to avoid eventually putting severe stresses on the state’s health-care system.
Look, I get it. Most, perhaps a majority of, Wyomingites treasure their rights and their independence. They chafe under virtually any governmental intervention and restriction. Being told to stay home or prove their essential work with documentation or anything of the sort runs again their grain and immediately causes them to push back — hard.
It also is clear to see that Americans are currently living under two realities. My Wyoming friends seem to see the current restrictions as an overreaction to what really is a little more than a cold and certainly no worse than previous flu outbreaks that did not marshal these kinds of responses. As with debate on such issues as climate change, they seek out and find reports that bolster their position. 
The numbers are clear: Only about a third of Republicans — and Wyoming is about as red a state as you can get — are seeing the current event as a crisis worthy of these kinds of actions. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats see it in just the opposite way, that such things as stay-at-home orders are essential to saving lives, even at severe costs to the workers and the economy.
For me, it’s much simpler than that. The bottom line is that all people in Wyoming should be doing what they can to not spread the virus. As I write this, Wyoming has 86 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 19 in Laramie County, where I have my home. 
But surely there are many more. Testing is way behind the curve, which means no one knows the true number of cases. All we know for certain is that the virus is in the state, that it spreads rapidly and it is extremely dangerous for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems (at a minimum 10 times more deadly than the average flu). We also know that Wyoming is one of the oldest states in the nation in terms of its number of elderly residents.
Finally, one of the cultural touchstones in Wyoming is that its people look out for each other. That we care as much about our friends, neighbors and family as we care about ourselves.
So, yes, my Facebook friend, when you are out and about, exercising your rights to travel and to associate and whatever else you would do under normal circumstances, you are being selfish. You are potentially exposing this state’s elderly (not to mention the fact that this virus tears up young people as well) to illness and death. If that is not the definition of selfish, you will have to explain to me what the definition is.
If you can guarantee that you are not sick (which you can’t do because it takes up to 5 days for symptoms to appear) and that you have not already contacted COVID-19 on a gas pump or at the counter of whatever store you find open, you are displaying the kind of selfishness that Wyomingites say is not part of their culture. You might want to think about that before rebelling against common-sense measures designed not to protect just you, but to protect others as well.
Here’s another way to look at it. Wyomingites love their guns, and they have a Second Amendment right to own and carry them. But what resident of this great state would walk into a crowded restaurant and wave that gun around and perhaps have it go off and kill someone? Only the most irresponsible, of course. Yet you would exercise your right to travel and spread an illness that can kill others? Please explain how that is not both selfish and irresponsible.
I’m sorry if this offends you or hurts your sensibilities. But it is time to take your mind off the restrictions of your rights and turn to protecting your friends, neighbors and families. Anything less is simply unacceptable in the great state of Wyoming.

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Mr. Governor, stop saying “pretty please” to Wyo. and put a stay-at-home order in place NOW

BY D. REED ECKHARDT

Memo to: Gov. Mark Gordon
From: D. Reed Eckhardt, resident and voter in Wyoming
Date: March 26,2020

Governor Gordon, I am writing to tell you that the time for “pretty please” government is long past in regards to the spread of COVID-19 in our great state. The total number of cases increased by 20 just overnight, and there is no reason to think the spread will not continue and the number will not continue to rise exponentially
Your news conference Wednesday was a disappointment on a number of fronts.
For example, that the state Health Department has yet to do a single model on how the spread of the
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon speaks to the media.
virus will impact 
Wyoming is shocking. Your experts need to be on top of their game, and they have had weeks, if not months, to prepare. If you can’t show Wyomingites where they are headed and how the curve can be flattened by social distancing, you never will convince them that they need to change their behavior.
But bigger than that was you unfounded belief that you can ask politely for Wyoming residents to observe social distancing in a serious way. Asking is not going to get the job done. You and I both know that many Wyomingites still consider this virus to be a hoax and of little impact. Consider just this one quote from a recent Los Angeles Times story about Wyoming’s virus reaction:
“I don’t understand what a big deal it is,” said Cara Valdez in an interview in Casper. “I believe there may be a cold thing going around. It just doesn’t need to be as big a deal as it is.”(https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-19/coronavirus-wyoming-covid-19-casper-idaho) 
Unfortunately, there is every indication that Ms. Valdez represents the thinking of too many Wyoming residents.
Similarly, the data indicate Wyomingites are not taking adequate action to distance themselves from one another.
A tech start-up, Unicast, has been using big data, tracking location information from smartphones, to check on how much traveling residents are doing. The thinking is that travel should be declining if distancing is being observed. Wyoming’s grade: an F. This despite your urging and polite requests that they look out for one another. 
Overall, Unacast rates the United States a B, for a 32 percent decline in average distance traveled. Wyoming is showing just a 6 percent decline. You might argue that Wyomingites have to travel more because we live so far apart, but even more populous Laramie and Natrona counties are showing just 15 percent declines. The bottom line is that residents are not taking the spread of COVID-19 seriously and are out visiting friends and neighbors and attending gatherings.
Governor, certainly those of us who are concerned about elderly friends and family appreciate your efforts up to this point. Closing bars and restaurants and other non-essential businesses were important first steps. 
But they are not enough, and you won’t be able to say enough “pretty pleases” to get this state’s residents to comply. Wyomingites’ independent streak, as well as their obeisance to media that continue minimize the effects to this pandemic, are causing them to ignore the seriousness of this event, and your moderate, polite approach is only encouraging them to do so.
Unfortunately, I am having to view Wyoming from afar as I tend to my 88-year-old mother in northern New Mexico. But feel safer here, where Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has issued a stay-at-home order and shut down non-essential businesses. 
Her tone in doing so was blunt and straightforward, and she minced no words after she saw less restrictive orders being ignored. She was not interested in being polite and sparing people’s feelings or even fretting about residents’ reactions or possible re-election; she was more interested in making certain that New Mexico residents heard her and responded correctly in order to keep each other safe and the pressures off the health care system.
And now just 10 miles south of you, in Colorado, a similar order went into place this morning.
Governor, please step up and show the leadership that is needed to keep Wyoming residents, including my wife, who is still in Cheyenne, safe.
And please don’t tell me that Wyoming is “different” or special. It is no different than New Mexico in terms of its rural nature with wide swaths of government land between communities and its reliance on the mineral industry. Perhaps the political climate is different – Wyoming is the reddest of red states and New Mexico is blue – but this virus does not know political party or liberal vs. conservative. It kills indiscriminately, and the more you wait on Wyoming to respond to your “pretty please,” the more you are putting lives in danger. Just one outbreak in a nursing home because you are ignored by your own voters and you will have cost potentially dozens of lives.
Mr. Governor, you and I have met a few times, and I respect your seriousness in doing you job as well as your common sense. Surely you know what the right thing to do here is: Put a stay-at-home order in place, prepare law enforcement to enforce it and prepare for pushback. This is no time to consider what it all will mean for the economy, your political future or anything else that you may be factoring in as you delay.
Mr. Governor, step up and lead. Without immediate, firm action, dozens of more COVID-19 cases will erupt and, yes, deaths will occur. 
Do it. Do it now.

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune- Eagle.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

If you live in Laramie County, the Wyoming GOP’s Central Committee probably does NOT represent you

BY KEREN MEISTER-EMERICH

The Wyoming Republican Central Committee probably does NOT represent you, especially if you live in Laramie or Natrona counties.
Did you know that according to the 2018 Wyoming Republican Committee Bylaws each county is represented on
the state central committee by three people, the elected state committeeman, state committeewoman and county chairman?  
In Niobrara County, the 1,167 registered Republicans (as of Feb. 1) are represented by three people. So each one of the
three central committee members from Niobrara would represent 389 people. But Laramie County the 22,844 registered Republicans are also represented by three people. So each of the three members of the central committee from Laramie County would represent 7, 615 people, almost 20 times as many people as the Niobrara County members.
Niobrara, Hot Springs, Weston, Washakie, Platte, Crook, Sublette, and Johnson counties combined have 21,608 registered Republicans (almost as many as Laramie). These eight counties have 24 votes on the State Central Committee. Laramie County has three. So with about the same number of registered Republicans, these eight counties have eight times the impact on decisions made by the state central committee than does Laramie County.
In 2019, Wyoming Republican Central Committee passed a resolution asking the Legislature to change the distribution of legislators so there are more legislators from small-population counties. This would violate the premise that one person’s voting power ought to be roughly equivalent to another person’s within the same state. It would also increase the number of legislators, thereby increasing the cost of government.
The Wyoming Republican Party issues directives to elected Republican legislators about how they should vote to be in alignment with the Wyoming Republican Platform and Resolutions. Often these represent the perspective on issues by a few people from some areas of the state. 
If you read that a specific legislator aligns with the Wyoming Republican Party’s platform, you may think that person holds the same values and views as you do. But the platform may not represent your view on all issues. 
When selecting the legislator to receive your vote in an election, dig a little deeper to determine if you are voting for the person with whom you agree on issues important to you. 
A position supported by someone from a smaller county, such as Niobrara or Hot Springs, may not be in alignment with your views.

Keren Meister-Emerich, Ed.D, is a Cheyenne resident.

SUPPORT MATERIALS
            Resolutions passed by the Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee since State Convention, May 2018: https://www.wyoming.gop/2019resolutions 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Seattle mayor offers good advice on dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak for officials in the Cowboy State

BY STEVE MYRUM

With the legislative session over, we can all focus on COVID-19, even though I feel as though I should be hospitalized for trying to track and find a modicum of common sense from members of our legislative body. 
As well, I can’t say common sense is being reflected by the vast majority of Wyoming’s citizens as they scramble over one another in a fit of panic buying. We’ll save that topic for another time.
What I do have is a dozen relatives living in ground zero of the COVID-19 virus in Seattle, Washington. We’ve
Testing for coronavirus in Connecticut.
formed a group chat to stay abreast of everyone’s health and generally share the challenges they face while getting through to the other side of this pandemic.
My brother Tom, a lawyer, living in a suburb of Seattle, shared in a chat conversation a message from the mayor of Seattle. The message, essentially an address to fellow mayors, carried some excellent advice to those ayors preparing for the eventual arrival of the COVID-19 virus.  
The message also included some sage advice for all government officials, most importantly the need to be as transparent as possible when releasing information to the public concerning the virus outbreak.
What follows is the message from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. With this reprint of her message, it’s my hope that our Cheyenne mayor and City Council as well as Wyoming officials will listen to her and learn from her so we can be better prepared when ground zero shifts to Wyoming.
Here is Mayor Durkan’s message: 

On Feb. 28, public health officials in the Seattle area announced the first case of covid-19.
Initially, the number of cases remained small and concentrated in one location. But the threat was already growing.
Now, slightly more than two weeks later, there are 642 confirmed cases statewide, including 387 cases and 35 deaths in our county. But public health officials and Seattle’s best scientists know covid-19 is significantly more widespread than the current level of testing can reveal.
Researchers believe there are actually more than 2,000 cases in our region. Experts expect the number of infected will double every six days. Without any action, 25,000 people could be infected, and 400 people could die by April 7 — just in the Seattle area alone.
That’s why in our region of more than 4 million people, we have taken unprecedented steps to slow the novel coronavirus’s spread.
We have prohibited large events, canceled schools, closed our libraries and community centers and set up funds to support small businesses, among many other steps.
Across every neighborhood in Seattle, citizens are working to prevent the spread of the virus, to check on their neighbors and to tackle this crisis together.
As the virus will eventually touch every town and city, here’s my best (and sometimes hard-won) advice to other mayors and local officials who are trying to prepare their communities:
 — Don’t wait to declare an emergency. It may be days before the first case is formally announced, but by then you will have hours to make decisions — not weeks.
Know your region’s capacity to test for this virus now. Be transparent and honest with your residents about that.
 — Engage your local research community (colleges, private companies and labs) to help scale testing and modeling now.
 — Speak as one voice across government, and start by telling people how to keep themselves safe.
 —  Act now to prohibit large events and postpone all nonessential gatherings.
 —  Announce clear public health rules for all transit, retail, restaurants and grocery stores.
 —  Ensure your first responders and health-care workers have personal protective equipment; we already face shortages and rationing of gowns, masks and gloves.
—  Urge telecommuting policies for your workforce and your local employers.
—  Engage your nonprofits and foundations to create response funds for the most vulnerable and for small businesses.
—  Ensure all workers know about the new flexibility in unemployment insurance to help provide relief to more Americans affected by the outbreak.
—  Working with public health officials, thoughtfully prepare to close your schools, community centers and libraries while understanding many families rely on these resources for meals and child care.
—   Plan for outbreaks in your most vulnerable communities, including senior facilities or shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness. Be prepared to rapidly stand up prevention, isolation, quarantine and recovery sites around your region (We will soon have at least eight of these sites in operation in the city and surrounding King County.)
—  Repurpose city resources for meals, child care, rental assistance and small-business assistance.
—  Impose an eviction moratorium so individuals can’t lose their home amid this crisis.
—  Remember the human toll of this pandemic: People are losing loved ones, our health-care workers are exhausted and our first responders are putting their health on the line.
Finally, be ready to do more and prepare as best you can for the devastating economic impact. Small-business owners are losing their livelihoods and in some cases their dreams. Working parents are being laid off. And the virus is particularly hard on families and individuals who have no safety net. The fear and anxiety are real.
This global pandemic is the most consequential event faced by the city of Seattle in the past 75 years. It will be for other cities, too.
Seattle, and our state, will recover over time. We will emerge stronger because of our common humanity: the way we are looking out for our neighbors, and the sacrifices so many are making to help save lives. But it will take united leadership at every step and people acting with both courage and kindness.

And I offer a special thanks to Truth to Power for allowing me to occasionally horn in on their action.
Peace.

            Steve Myrum is a Cheyenne resident.

            Editor’s note: While we appreciate Mr. Myrum’s thanks, Truth to Power is available for use for anyone who wishes to express their opinion, regardless of political perspective. You can contact D. Reed Eckhardt at dreed1969@msn.com or Richard Johnson at richardjohnson82001@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

DIY or Die: If it hadn’t been for a do-it-yourself concert, this city would have no music scene

Note from writer: I was recently asked by former City Council member and Truth to Power blogger Richard Johnson to write about my history with promoting music shows in Cheyenne and, specifically for this article, where I started. This is my response.  

BY KEITH COOMBES

There is no secret that Cheyenne has had a thriving underground music scene for decades. And then there is its rich history of music throughout the 20th century in numerous, mostly defunct bars and clubs.  
Throughout the 1980s there were several garage metal and rock bands that would pop up at parties, the American Legion
Keith Coombes was in on the ground floor of the city’s punk metal scene.
and the infamous Lincoln Theater Battle of The Bands show in 1989 where the punks and thrashers showed up and moshed and stage dived in front of the unsuspecting crowd of Q98 listeners.  
In my world, that was the turning point in Cheyenne underground music history.  We were younger (mostly), and we had a crew of outcasts who all skated and listened to much more aggressive music than Megadeth, Metallica, or Guns N Roses. 
I was merely a skate rat punk metal kid who was up front for the show, thrashing about and saw the city division first hand that I felt before (and after).  
We were doing our own thing. The generational wave was imminent.
Fast forward a few months to October 1989. I had recently visited Wax Trax in Denver (I was either spending my hard-earned bus boy money there or at Front Range Recs in Fort Collins as well as Book & Record Exchange in downtown Cheyenne), where I got a flier for a four local bands $4 metal show in Thornton, so the Kauhn's and I went down. 
This show was wild: in some basement garage-type place with a couple hundred, drinking and drugging and just hanging out listening to some punishing music.  
I'm somewhat of an impulsive person, and that night literally changed my life. As we're watching the bands, I thought to myself, "I'd love to have this in Cheyenne!" so I just went for it.  
As each band was done with their sets, I looked for a member to be in the crowd and approached them about playing in Cheyenne. I got contact info and started brainstorming where I could do this. The obvious place: the old community house in Lions Park.  
So I called the city and rented the hall for a mid-November date.  I called my contacts —  Anathema and Sadistic Intent were down. With one of their recommendations, we added Blistering Body Pus (also from Denver) to the bill. Time to get to work.
I made fliers and handbills and we hit up the mall as well as Budget next to Dan's County Market, Downtown Record Exchange, all pawn shops and instrument stores (there were 3 back then) plus the high schools and Jr. highs, of course. Three weeks to a month of advertising (what a concept) and we had 119 paying people plus my friends who were helping me out with cleaning and whatnot.  
I had hoped for 50. I charged $3  because it was three bands. Makes sense. Punk rock prices.  Lots of familiar faces as well as lots of unfamiliar faces.  
Back then, going to a different school meant you didn't necessarily know everyone who was potentially into the same things you were. I remember a constant mosh pit, everyone rocking out with zero fights and zero garbage to deal with. I think everyone was just excited to be around like-minded people in a town where they are normally ostracized.  
Everyone I talked to liked BBP the most (as did I), so I asked them at the end of the night about coming back in February. I didn't know until the end of the night that the owner of Mosh Pit Records (label and store front) was there and was as blown away with us kids going off all night as were the bands.  
She wanted to bring her "big" band — Animosity— next time with BBP. "Sure!" So here we were with now two-plus months of 119+ people talking about what an incredible time they had and plenty of time to advertise and hype up the upcoming show.
Fast forward to February. I had to put a security deposit down this time as well as rent off-duty cops. Cha-ching. Whatever. You deal. Move on. The city saw their fish.  
I knew this show was going to be bigger anyways.  We had 185 paying this time and Mosh Pit Recs brought up a barrier (which was a lot cooler to jump into the crowd from than the crappy stage provided), full lights and their own loud-as-hell P.A. A real show!  
Cops were out that night — a few busts in the parking lot. Drinks and weed. Not my problem.  This would be the norm from here on out.  
             I know the third show was giving BBP a rest and them suggesting Violent Degenerates as well as bringing back Sadistic Intent. I think Future Shock played too. This was in the spring of 1990.
Throughout the rest of my high school days I threw maybe a dozen shows. I don't know exactly.  I have all the fliers buried in Ernie's basement in boxes. Next time I'm in town I'll have to dig them out.
 And maybe next time I'll tell you about my senior year and the Christian protesters and how these "devil shows" were a threat to the kids who were attending the shows. My youth pastor pulled me aside to let me know she got a phone call from a few churches regarding me and the shows I was hosting.  Screw off.

Keith Coombes is a Cheyenne resident and the owner of Ernie November’s.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences are now allowed to vote in Wyoming

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

When I was a petitioner for Wyoming NORML, supporting the legalization of marijuana, it really set in how many good people I knew couldn’t vote because they were felons. 
These were the people who donated to countless nonprofits, volunteered at events and ran businesses. It was a shame they couldn’t vote. Granted, some of them didn’t care if they could vote, but others were upset that as adults they couldn’t take part in the process.
Most of them got
their felonies when they were in that 18- to 22-year old range range. Got caught doing dumb shit. Most of it drug possession. 
That’s why I always told then-state Rep. Jim Byrd, D-Cheyenne, that I supported his endeavor in the state House to reinstate voters’ rights to nonviolent felons. 
As much as I preach how the Legislature is made up of head-in-the-sand, single-party clones, the legislation finally passed. I was asked to write this article to shed light on this topic for those who qualify to get their voting rights back.
Here’s the lowdown from the Wyoming Department of Corrections:

Effective July 1, 2017, W.S. §7-13-105 allows individuals convicted, who are first-time nonviolent felons, to automatically have their right to vote restored if they completed their supervision or were discharged from an institution on or after Jan. 1, 2010. Individuals who completed their sentence prior to Jan. 1, 2010, are required to apply for restoration of the right to vote.
Those who discharged from Wyoming Department of Corrections’ custody or supervision prior to Jan. 1, 2010, or those who have a nonviolent felony conviction outside of the state of Wyoming or a nonviolent felony conviction under federal law may apply to have their voting rights restored.
The completed application should be mailed or dropped off at the following address:
            Wyoming Department of Corrections
Attn: Field Services Administrator
1934 Wyott Drive, Suite 100
Cheyenne, WY 82002
A review of the application will take place within 30 days of receipt. Approval or denial will be provided, in writing, to the applicant via mail. For questions regarding who is required to apply for restoration of voting rights you may call the field services representative at (307) 777-6341.
Individuals who discharge from Wyoming Department of Corrections’ custody (this includes Wyoming inmates housed out of state) on or after Jan. 1, 2010, and were convicted in the state of Wyoming, are not required to apply. If you qualify (i.e. first-time non-violent felony), you will receive a signed certificate from the Wyoming Department of Corrections which indicates your voting rights have been restored. 
This certificate will be sent to you via mail at the individual’s last known address. Since restoration of voting rights is automatic, the Secretary of State’s Office and the Clerk of the District Court will be notified that your right to vote was restored.
To ensure you receive your certificate at the correct address, you are responsible for notifying the WDOC of your change in address. Please send a letter notifying WDOC of the change in address to:
WDOC Central Office Records Manager
1934 Wyott Dr. Suite 100
Cheyenne, WY 82002
For additional information, such as definitions and procedure for determining qualification, please refer to WDOC Policy and Procedure #3.403, Inmate Rights.
For general questions regarding the process for automatic restoration of voting rights you may call the WDOC representative at 307-777-5983.

As you can see, this is going to take some commitment and time. Don’t get too frustrated that the Department of Corrections may not get back to you in a timely fashion. It may take a few months. 
It’s a presidential election year, and every vote counts, especially in local races that have the greatest impact on your life. 
Get this done now, so you can participate in August and November.

            Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Cheyenne’s east side.