The Montana Senate passed a bill Friday that split Republicans to allow counties to use all-mail ballots for the expected special election this spring to choose a replacement for U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke. The bill passed the Senate in a final vote 37-13 and sent it to the House after winning preliminary approval, 35-15, earlier in the day. Nineteen Republicans and all 18 Democrats voted for SB305 on the final vote, while 13 Republicans opposed it. Sponsored by Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, the bill would give each country the option of using all-mail ballots for this special election only. County commissioners and clerks and recorders requested the bill, saying they could save up to $750,000 statewide for the special election by using mail ballots exclusively and not need to fund polling places and hire election judges.
The Voting News
Wisconsin: Federal appeals court could reinstate Wisconsin’s early voting limits | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Three federal judges expressed deep skepticism Friday over claims that Wisconsin Republicans had deliberately made it harder for minorities to vote, raising the prospect they would reinstate limits on early voting. Judge Frank Easterbrook of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said those challenging Wisconsin’s voting laws were contending that Democrats can expand voting rules to help their party at the polls but Republicans can’t tighten them to their advantage. “That can’t be right,” he said during arguments in a pair of Wisconsin cases. His colleagues on the panel — Judges Michael Kanne and Diane Sykes — showed they had just as many doubts about lower court rulings that struck down voting rules set by GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers.
National: White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked FBI to dispute Russia reports | Associated Press
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked a top FBI official to dispute media reports that President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, a White House official said late Thursday. The official said Priebus’ request came after the FBI told the White House it believed a New York Times report last week describing those contacts was not accurate. As of Thursday, the FBI had not stated that position publicly and there was no indication it planned to. The New York Times reported that U.S. agencies had intercepted phone calls last year between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team. Priebus’ discussion with FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe sparked outrage among some Democrats, who said he was violating policies intended to limit communications between the law enforcement agency and the White House on pending investigations.
National: Professor Who Urged an Election Recount Thinks Trump Won, but Voting Integrity Still Concerns Him | The Chronicle of Higher Education
In the days after November’s election, a news report described a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, J. Alex Halderman, as having a made a provocative discovery. The report suggested he had found “persuasive evidence” of voting anomalies in three key swing states, each barely won by Donald J. Trump, that gave him the margin of his surprise victory, and asked whether computer hacking could have been responsible. Claims that Hillary Clinton’s vote totals were suspiciously lower in counties that relied on computerized voting machines helped fuel recount demands by Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential nominee, that later were joined by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
The Arizona House on Thursday gave initial approval to proposals that will ask voters to repeal or revise a 1998 law that keeps lawmakers from repealing or changing voter-approved laws. The measures that passed on a voice vote late in the evening are part of a concerted effort by Republicans upset with voter passage in November of a minimum wage increase and the cost to battle a failed voter initiative that would have legalized marijuana. Minority Democrats were united in opposition. The House delayed debate on the most contentious of two other Republican proposals aimed at changing the way voter initiatives make the ballot. The proposal by Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, was sidelined after House attorneys raised possible constitutional issues with the change he is proposing. An attorney review will not be complete until next week, Shooter said. It also would require voter approval.
The House on Thursday approved a proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls. House Joint Resolution 1016 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, passed in a 73-21 vote. The resolution goes to Senate. The proposal, if referred to the November 2018 ballot and approved by voters, would amend the Arkansas Constitution to include among the qualifications to vote a requirement that a person show photo ID before casing a ballot in person and include photo ID when mailing an absentee ballot.
Dale Kobayashi is still smarting. Six months after narrowly losing a state legislative race to Rep. Isaac Choy, the longtime Manoa resident wishes Hawaii had a recount law on the books. Kobayashi lost to Choy in the Democratic primary in August by 70 votes out of more than 5,400 votes cast. Choy won with 47.6 percent of the vote compared with 46.4 for Kobayashi. “When a race is so close, you want to double-check the count,” Kobayashi said Wednesday. Kobayashi, the son of Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, is already planning to run again in 2018. And if the race is close again, Kobayashi just might get that recount — if a bill making its way through the Legislature this session becomes law.
City of Meridian officials are considering managing the upcoming municipal elections in-house, rather than using the services of the Lauderdale County Election Commission. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, the city plans to ask the council to allow Election Systems & Software (ESS), to manage the May 2 municipal elections as a means of saving taxpayer money. The Lauderdale County Election Commission oversaw previous municipal elections. “ESS, our finance department and five election commissioners have been trying to oversee elections,” Meridian Mayor Percy Bland said. ” As an administration, we feel ESS, our finance department and five election commissioners will do a good job. We just handled the Food and Beverage Tax special election (in August). Going forward, we believe that ESS and our finance department team can oversee the municipal election compared to the prices that we paid in the past (to the county). We are doing it as a cost-saving measure.” The city will pay ESS $50,927 to oversee the municipal election. For the 2013 municipal election, the city paid the Lauderdale County Election Commission $24,414, which did not include rental fees for county voting machines.
It’s no secret that when more people vote, Republicans lose. This is the reason the GOP works so hard to suppress voting rights under the guise of “protecting our elections from voter fraud.” However, even though we all know this is true, right-wing lawmakers never openly admit it–until now. In December, President Donald Trump announced that he has chosen Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department in his administration. As a result, Zinke’s congressional seat–the only one in the state– will be left vacant and have to be filled with a special election in the Spring. There’s a problem though: the counties in the state are having a hard time finding the money for a special election. Because of this budget issue, State Senator Steve Fitzpatrick introduced SB 305, a bipartisan bill that would allow counties to use mail-in ballots for the election.
Accusations of voter suppression are already flying ahead of Montana’s anticipated special election. That would be held after Congressman Ryan Zinke vacates his seat, pending Senate confirmation of his appointment to become secretary of the interior. The cost of this special election falls on county governments, and many say they are too broke to set up polling places after the election last November. “We’re going to have to rob money out of another budget to pay for this election.” That’s Duane Mitchell, a Richland County commissioner, speaking in support of a Republican-sponsored bill on Tuesday that would allow counties to scrap most polling places and run the special election as a mail-in-ballot. “It would save us, we figure, $6,000 – $8,000.” It could also increase voter turnout, according to Montana GOP Chairman Jeff Essmann. And that, he says, could cost Republicans the election.