Top Republican leaders earlier this week asked state Rep. Geraldine Custer not to introduce a bill to make the coming special election by mail ballot only. Montana’s expecting a special election this spring to replace U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, who’s been nominated for secretary of the interior. Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians are already preparing campaigns. A major factor in all elections is voter turnout, and election processes affect it. Custer, a Republican, told the Chronicle that Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, Republican Party Chairman Jeff Essmann and the state’s highest election official Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, oppose a mail ballot-only election. “The Democrats used to oppose it, but now the parties have flipped,” Custer said. “Personally, I’d rather get beat in an election with good turnout than win an election with low turnout.”
Essmann said he opposes a mail ballot election because of integrity concerns, e.g. stolen ballots, and personal freedom. “People should have the freedom to vote the way they want to,” he said.
Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder Charlotte Mills said mail ballot-only elections are safe. “We verify every signature on every ballot,” she said. “And if people are worried about their ballot getting stolen, they can walk it into our office and drop it off.”
And Mills explained that a mail ballot-only election will almost certainly have a higher voter turnout than an election with physical polling places. That’s because all registered voters, not just absentee voters, would receive their ballot in the mail.