Some Montana residents may not be able to vote in the November election if the state Supreme Court grants Republican Party chairman Jeff Essmann’s petition to delay the printing of ballots to remove a Libertarian candidate’s name, state officials said Monday. Changing the ballots now to remove Roger Roots’ name from the ballot could cause counties to miss the deadline to mail ballots to Montana residents currently outside of the United States, said Jorge Quintana, the lawyer for Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, in his response filed with the Supreme Court. It would also require changing the handicapped-accessible electronic voting system and the vote tabulating equipment for the more than 700 ballots statewide, said Lisa Kimmet, McCulloch’s elections deputy. And ballots would have to be reprinted because the candidates’ names in each race are rotated on different ballots so that each name appears at the top of the list an equal number of times.
Roots, who has neither collected nor spent any money in his campaign, is running for secretary of state against Republican Corey Stapleton and Democrat Monica Lindeen. Roots said the Republicans are trying to force him off the ticket because they believe he’ll take votes away from Stapleton. “It goes to show you that they’re afraid of the Libertarian Party attracting voters from them,” Roots said. “They’re relying on these technicalities to try to remove these third parties from the ballot.”
Stapleton did not return a call for comment late Monday afternoon. Previously, Essmann denied his petition against Roots was designed to give Stapleton an advantage over Lindeen.
The state Supreme Court, which ordered McCulloch and Motl to respond to Essmann’s claims, did not take immediate action on Monday.