No, an AI bot isn't running for mayor of Cheyenne, Wyoming

Officials in Wyoming are trying to figure out how to respond to an application to run for mayor of the City of Cheyenne that comes with the promise of AI-assisted governance.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle asks, "Can voters elect an AI for mayor?" And Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray on Monday wrote to the City Clerk of Cheyenne urging the rejection of the application, noting "Wyoming law does not permit an artificial intelligence bot to run for any office in the state, including municipal offices."

But Victor Miller, a facilities technician and computer assistant with the Laramie County Library System in the US state, disputes the notion that he applied to have an AI bot run for mayor.

"That's a little bit of a salacious way to say it," he told The Register. "I'm of course the one running."

While it's been reported that Miller put VIC on the application form and that VIC stands for Virtual Integrated Citizen, VIC is also short for Victor. Miller explained that he's running for mayor with the promise that he would use AI to help make better decisions. Using the email address aiformayor2024 [at] gmail [dawt] com probably didn't help either.

"Right now, the term of art that we playfully use is meat avatar," he said.

VIC, the AI agent, Miller explained, is a custom version of OpenAI's ChatGPT. "I told it that it is running for mayor of Cheyenne and to try to be funny. I gave it a few other tips, like staying firm on a vote once it has been made."

Asked whether he has any specific policy goals, Miller said, "VIC gets asked that a lot. He seems to bring up transparency. I don't know if that's something hardwired in him or if he's just sick of hearing me rant about it. But that's definitely rubbed off on him.

"Of course, he likes technology, economic development, big on equality and housing, which housing is a big deal around here. So right, I'm not exactly sure what happens under the hood when you ask him what his policies are. But that seems to be what he rattles off."

As to the uncertainty that has arisen about the validity of his application to run for mayor, Miller said it sounds to him like city officials intend to use the fact that he didn't list his last name for the ballot display text as a way to disqualify him.

"I was completely upfront, you know," he said. "I didn't register an artificial intelligence entity to run. I am running as myself, a human being who's, you know, lived in this town my whole entire life. You can look up on the form in the Cheyenne Clerk's Office, what we all filled out. So I filled out the form, they knew everything about me, my full name, my address, everything they wanted, right. And then there's just a little section of what you want to put on the ballot. And that's what I chose to put 'VIC.'

"So to me, it sounds like they're going to use that as some kind of technicality to railroad me out of the race, because they don't like how I'm campaigning, and they don't like the threat of what this augmented intelligence could release."

Brad Lund, an attorney with the Laramie County Attorney's Office, said city officials have yet to decide whether VIC will appear on the ballot. If that happens, the issue will move to the county level and the county clerk will decide what to do.

"Essentially we're trying to treat this as if under any other application," Lund told us. "We're not trying to treat it any differently. We're equipped with our law to sort this out one way or the other."

In a statement to The Register, Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray said, "It is the municipal clerk, not the Secretary of State, who certifies municipal candidates to the county clerk. Although the Secretary of State's Office does not certify municipal candidates to the county clerk, we are monitoring this very closely to ensure uniform application of the Election Code.

"Our office is tasked with ensuring uniform application of the Election Code and also handling complaints that may arise once any official action is taken. Wyoming law is clear that, to run for office, one must be a 'qualified elector,' which necessitates being a real person. Therefore, an AI bot is not a qualified elector.

"Furthermore, even if 'VIC (Virtual Integrated Citizen)' is being used as a fake name to appear on the ballot for a qualified elector, Wyoming law also requires that candidates running for office use the full name by which they are known. I sent a letter to the Municipal clerk raising my concerns with the application and my opinion that the application should be rejected." ®

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