Wyoming judge dismisses ballot access case without prejudice
January 11, 2024
by Samir Knox
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — An Albany County judge ordered the dismissal of a case that would have kept former President Donald J. Trump and U.S. Sen. Cynthia M. Lummis, R-Wyo., off future Wyoming ballots.
The case was dismissed without prejudice, leaving the door open for future lawsuits regarding their access to the ballot.
The matter mirrors attempts in several other states to ban the former president from appearing on state ballots based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prevents elected officials from serving in elected office if they have engaged in an insurrection.
A lawsuit in Colorado, which is based on the same argument and was affirmed by that state’s highest court, is headed for review by the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 8.
On Nov. 1, Laramie-based attorney Tim Newcomb filed a lengthy complaint, asking for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in the form of the permanent removal of Trump and Lummis from all Wyoming ballots. He also asked for compensation for attorney’s fees.
The crux of Newcomb’s argument came from a claim that Trump violated his oath to “defend and support the Constitution against domestic enemies” through his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. Through her support of the former president and refusal to certify certain election results as a sitting U.S. senator, Newcomb said Lummis also broke her oath.
The complaint cited more than 250 sources to support his claim that Trump stoked the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C., and that his conduct led to the deaths of five individuals on Jan. 6, 2021, at least partially enabled by Lummis’s support of him.
Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray is the defendant named in the case, due to his office’s role in presiding over statewide elections. He filed a motion to dismiss on Dec. 7, calling the lawsuit a “blatant and radical (attempt) to interfere with Wyoming’s elections.”
Recently, Gray has called for stricter voter identification requirements for Wyoming voters, supporting a bill in the Legislature that would require someone to live in the state for more than 30 days before casting a ballot. The bill would also require, in some instances, additional proof of residency beyond someone’s state ID, according to reporting from WyoFile.
The case was handled by Albany County District Judge Misha Westby, who dismissed the case on mostly procedural grounds. In an order published Thursday, she said that the complaint was not timely enough.
Since Lummis is not up for re-election until 2026, Westby said that the request for Lummis to be removed from Wyoming ballots was especially premature.
“The Plaintiff does not allege in his complaint that either individual is currently named on a Wyoming ballot,” the order read. “The complaint was filed in November of 2023, well before there is any certainty about what the 2024, let alone the 2026 ballot, will look like or the names that will be presented for inclusion on those ballots.
“Unlike many of the other states where this issue has been raised, ballots are not currently being prepared in Wyoming.”
The case was dismissed without prejudice, however, leaving the possibility for Newcomb or another party to file a similar lawsuit closer to either official’s election. In fact, the order mentioned that “the Court accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true, and views them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff.”
The order did not mention any factual contentions that potentially informed the dismissal. While this does not mean that Newcomb’s claims are true, the order did not make any declamatory statements about the validity of his allegations.
In the dismissal order, Westby also denied two requests filed by the former president himself and the Wyoming Republican Party to intervene in the case, saying that the dismissal makes both parties’ intervention unnecessary.