From the Chair The Canvass spoke with Representative Dan Zwonitzer on Sept. 28 in the Jonah Building, the temporary home of the Wyoming Legislature while the State Capitol is undergoing remodeling. Rep. Zwonitzer is the chair of the House Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee and represents House District 43, which includes Laramie County. He has served in the Wyoming House since 2005. Q. How does working in a legislature that is dominated by one party alter how the committee functions? When I started we had enough Democrats that we were within a two-vote threshold of having a veto-proof majority. Right now I only have one Democrat on my committee of nine, whereas there used to be three. I’m not sure if it’s due to partisanship or not but we’re not getting the same quality and length of debate and vetting of legislation. Formerly the check of the governor being from another party made sure that the legislature passed well-vetted legislation. We have lost some internal checks and balances due to the current 51 to 9 split. Q. What values do you hold as you think about election policy issues as they come before your committee? Fairness is always the number one. It is difficult in a state where we have such a Republican majority to ensure the rights of the minority, whether Democrat or another party. For instance, if you’re not a Republican in the state, same day voter registration is one way non-Republicans feel that they get a voice. With same day registration, voters can change their party and vote in a primary right away and then change it back afterward. So as a chairman, I’m very much aware that we have partisan dynamics at play throughout the state that are causing election difficulty, especially in primary elections where the primary is the major election contest for candidates. Q. What are the major election administration priorities for you and Wyoming? The overarching concern on all of the election issues is finances. New election equipment is going to be a huge fight, because historically the state hasn’t paid. Counties run elections but now have limited budgets. Counties are looking at their outdated equipment and have a concern about replacement, while the state doesn’t see it. Counties can’t afford continuing the elections as they’ve been doing them. But there’s no one solution which works best for every county and is currently cost realistic. Q. What are you most proud of in Wyoming? One of the great things is that anyone can run for office here. That’s partly because we’re a one-party state, and it’s partly because we don’t have a lot of restrictions on campaigns. We try to be generous in the law and give people the benefit of the doubt in running for office. Anyone can run and anyone can get elected. There’s some pride in Wyoming that if you go negative, people will call you out for it. We also don’t have long elections. It’s poor form to announce before February or March, six months before the primary. With the short election cycle, even statewide you can go and meet most people you want to meet. I give my cell phone number out and I have a Facebook page that overlaps with public life. We are very much accountable public servants at all times here. Q: How did you get selected to chair the elections committee? This is my seventh term, and I’ve always been interested in government. I was always fascinated with elections and government process and got really lucky to be placed on the Corporations committee at the start of my second term. On this committee, the issues can be both really intricate, with utility and insurance law. After a while, I was one of the few left who had a good grasp of the issues. I’ve been chairman for three years now. Q: Has there been anything surprising to you since becoming chair? The most difficult part of being chairman, I think, is that you’re always thinking about process. Before becoming chair, I got to ask the hard-hitting questions. Now as chairman, I have to be the one setting the example in following parliamentary procedure and making sure everyone who wants to ask a question or wants to testify gets to, all while watching the clock.