An overwhelming majority of Montana’s GOP legislators are urging their leadership in the state House and Senate to appoint a special committee to investigate the security of the state’s election system, an effort spearheaded by Republican legislators who are pushing theories of widespread voting fraud. The decision to appoint a special select committee, as requested in the Wednesday letter signed by 86 of the GOP’s 98 lawmakers, rests entirely in the hands of Senate President Mark Blasdel and House Speaker Wylie Galt, both Republicans. Galt didn’t return phone calls requesting comment on the letter, which asks for a response from them by Oct. 6, and Blasdel declined to comment when reached Friday. The letter proposes forming a GOP-majority committee, in which each party gets seats relative to their numbers in each chamber. Republicans hold 67 of 100 House seats and 31 of 50 Senate seats. “Many of our constituents have reached out to us with questions about Montana election security,” the letter states. “… The Select Committee would conduct hearings about the process and security of Montana elections and propose future changes if needed; including legislation.”
Montana lawsuit by youth groups calls new Republican election laws ‘a cocktail of voter suppression measures’ | Sam Wilson/Helena Independent Record
A trio of groups advocating for young Montanans are challenging several changes to Montana’s election laws enacted by the Legislature, calling them “a cocktail of voter suppression measures that land heavily on the young.” The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Yellowstone County District Court, targets three bills passed by Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte earlier this year. Two are already the subject of existing lawsuits: Senate Bill 169, which tightened voter identification requirements, including requiring that student IDs be augmented with another form of identification for in-person voting; and House Bill 176, which ended Election Day registration in Montana. House Bill 506 previously received attention for a series of last-minute changes to the bill by Republicans, who amended it to alter the process for drawing Montana’s new congressional district. Thursday’s lawsuit challenges a different aspect of that law, which prevents ballots from being mailed out to new voters in advance of their 18th birthdays.