Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch on Thursday accepted a replacement for U.S. House candidate Mike Fellows, who died in a car crash earlier this week, after a Libertarian Party internal dispute briefly threatened to delay county election officials from printing new ballots. Rick Breckenridge of Proctor filed his paperwork with McCulloch’s office on Thursday morning after the Ravalli County Libertarian Central Committee chose him to replace Mike Fellows in the U.S. House race. Fellows, the longtime state chairman of the Libertarian Party, died Monday night in a head-on collision after a campaign event in Seeley Lake. But a power struggle emerged within the party over Fellows’ successor as the head of the party who could properly name a replacement candidate, and McCulloch said Breckenridge’s filing could not be accepted until the dispute was settled.
… The Secretary of State’s office is recommending that counties reprint their ballots in their entirety to ensure the accuracy of the election, out of fairness to the candidates and because it is the option that will provide the least disruption to Montana voters, according to a memo to county election officials. Missing Friday’s deadline to get ballots to overseas voters may extend the time frame that those voters have to return the ballots, the memo said.
Election administrators already had to delay printing their ballots once earlier this month over questions of another Libertarian candidate’s eligibility. Montana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Essmann sued the state in a failed attempt to remove Roots from the ballot in the secretary of state race. “We were relieved when that was all done, and now we’re back to square one,” said Cascade County election administrator Rina Moore.
Moore said officials in her office are unstuffing approximately 25,000 absentee ballots that had already been placed in envelopes. She estimated it will take about three days to re-print the corrected ballots once she gets the green light from the secretary of state’s office. “I will have our printers run around the clock,” she said.