A last-ditch effort to hold the May special election to fill Montana’s vacant seat in Congress by mail failed Friday. Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, tried to “blast” a bill that would let counties choose to use mail ballots onto the House floor. A blast motion is an attempt to revive a bill that has stalled in committee. The motion needed 60 votes out of 100 House members, but only got 51. Senate Bill 305 was carried by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls. The bill would have allowed counties to choose to conduct the May 25 election to replace former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, who resigned to become Secretary of the Interior, by mail. Voting still would be available at county courthouses before the election and on Election Day, a Thursday, as well as at satellite offices.
Since being introduced, the bill went for a roller-coaster ride. Shortly after it cleared the Senate by a comfortable margin, the chairman of the Montana State Republican Party, state Rep. Jeff Essmann, sent an email to party members warning that its passage would mean higher turnout and a lower chance of winning for Republicans.
The bill was then assigned by the Speaker of the House to a so-called “kill committee,” known for the number of bills it votes down.