Emory Wyman and Compulsory Voting

After Shelton resident Emory Wyman (1834-1929) was elected to the Nebraska House of Representatives in 1898, he wasted no time in introducing a bill on compulsory voting in Nebraska that was designed to compel every legal voter to vote at general elections.  

Emory Wyman. From Samuel Clay Bassett, Buffalo County, Nebraska, and Its People (Chicago, 1916)

The Kearney Daily Hub on January 14 noted: “Mr. Wyman is a member of the fusion aggregation and he is firmly convinced that the failure of the voters of Nebraska to realize upon their opportunities is the principal reason for his being classed as a member of the minority in the legislature. [Though the fusionists had elected their gubernatorial candidate, William A. Poynter, they lost the legislature.] This merely by way of preface to relating that this morning Mr. Wyman presented to the house a bill to compel every legal voter to come out and vote at general elections.”  

Wyman’s bill proposed that failure to vote at such elections would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of ten dollars and costs. The bill made county attorneys liable to impeachment if violations were called to their attention and they failed to prosecute the offenders.  

“The effect of this law,” said the Hub, “will be that henceforth instead of campaign committees hiring men at round sums per day to hustle in the votes, all that will be necessary to do will be to send a copy of the law to every voter and let him do the worrying.”  

Emory Wyman was a longtime resident of Shelton, Nebraska, pictured here about 1910. NSHS RG2608-2421

Wyman, whose bill never became law, served only a single term in the Nebraska Legislature. He moved from Shelton to Gibbon in 1906 and later to Wisconsin, where he died in 1929 at the age of ninety-four. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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