by nathan oster
Sixty percent of the registered voters in Big Horn County went to the polls in last week’s primary election, and while that puts it on par, percentagewise, with the turnout of the most recent primaries, it’s somewhat misleading due to a change in the way the county clerk’s office maintains its database of registered voters.
Heading into the primary election, there were 4,949 registered voters in the county — a drop of just about 600 when compared to the 2014 and 2012 registered voter counts of 5,548 and 5,543, respectively.
“Yes, our registered number is down,” said Lori Smallwood, the county clerk. “If a voter doesn’t vote in the general election, they receive a post card that asks if they wish to remain a registered voter.
“Those that do not return the card or call us are moved to inactive status.”
Smallwood said it’s a requirement of the Secretary of State’s office and the statewide voter registration system.
The number of votes cast in last week’s primary was set at 2,964, which is down significantly from 2014, when two county commission seats and all county department heads were on the ballot and 3,628 people cast ballots, for a turnout of 65 percent.
In the 2012 primary — which, like this one, was an off year for county office holders and just a single commission seat was on the ballot — the turnout was set at 59 percent, with 4,017 votes cast by the 5,543 registered voters in the county.
Emblem, with 74 percent of registered voters casting ballots, and Shell, with 73 percent, were the communities with the best turnouts in last week’s election.
Statewide, 116,253 ballots were cast in the primary election. Secretary of State Ed Murray said, “This means that only 26 percent of Wyoming’s voting age population cast a vote. Although this is the best primary election turnout Wyoming has seen in a presidential election year since 2004, I think we still have a lot of work to do as a state to continue to educate our families, our friends, our neighbors, and especially our youth about the importance of voting,” said Murray.