Ballots are already out for school elections and special districts all over Montana, but by May 2nd, most voters will have yet another ballot to fill out: for the high-profile congressional race to replace Ryan Zinke. In many counties, the ballots don’t have any ‘Due by date’ stamped on the outside and some elections administrators are worried people may miss the May 2nd deadline for school districts. Ravalli County Election Administrator Regina Plettenberg says her office is fielding around 20 calls a day because people are confused.
Articles about voting issues in Montana.
The Montana Senate has rejected an attempt by Gov. Steve Bullock to revive a bill that would have allowed counties to conduct the May 25 special congressional election by mail. The Republican-led Senate rejected the Democratic governor’s proposed amendment to a separate election bill 27-21 on Monday.
The Montana Green Party is appealing a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to deny an emergency motion requesting that Thomas Breck’s name be added to Montana’s special congressional election ballot. Breck of Missoula, along with Independent candidates Steve Kelly and Doug Campbell, said they now plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging that they were turned down “on the basis of an unconstitutional state law.”
Republican House Speaker Austin Knudsen is using his parliamentary power to kill a measure allowing counties to hold an all-mail ballot in Montana’s May 25 special congressional election. Knudsen has refused to schedule a floor vote on House Bill 83, which Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock sent back to the House on April 7, with amendments giving counties the option to conduct an all-mail ballot. Without a floor vote, the bill is dead – unless at least 60 House members vote to overrule Knudsen’s decision, which is unlikely. In a statement Tuesday, Bullock said Knudsen is “playing procedural games to prevent this (bill) from reaching the House floor.”
Montana: Green Party, independents won’t be on Montana’s special election ballot, appeals court rules | Associated Press
An appeals court has denied a request by three minor party and independent candidates to place their names on the ballot for the special election to replace Ryan Zinke, who left Montana’s only U.S. House seat to become Interior secretary. The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the emergency motion late Monday. Instead, the panel ordered the candidates and the Montana Secretary of State’s Office to file their arguments by mid-June, well after the election set for May 25. Overseas ballots have already been mailed and other preparations are already underway for the election. Absentee ballots are scheduled to be mailed May 1.
Voters in the 2018 general election will decide whether to enact proposed restrictions for individuals that collect and turn in absentee ballots during Montana’s elections, pending an Attorney General’s office review of legislation passed Thursday. By a 51-49 vote, the state House voted passed Senate Bill 352 before taking a four-day break for the Easter holiday last week, sending the referendum to the Department of Justice for a legal review. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell, said his proposed referendum was a response to reports of possible ballot tampering associated with the get-out-the-vote practice, sometimes called “ballot harvesting.” No such cases of purported tampering have been confirmed in Montana.
A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request to delay the printing and mailing of ballots for Montana’s special congressional election for three minor party and independent candidates who are suing to be in the race. The request by Thomas Breck of the Green Party and independents Steve Kelly and Doug Campbell was made after U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said he would not unilaterally add them to the ballot in the May 25 election. The three men appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked Morris to prevent state election officials from printing and mailing ballots to military and overseas voters while the case is pending. Morris said in his order that he would halt the lawsuit in his court until the appeal is resolved, but he won’t prevent the election from proceeding because the three men haven’t shown that they are likely to win their case.
“What is better for democracy than to put a ballot in the hands of every registered voter?” was the prominent headline on an April 7 press release by Governor Steve Bullock. He issued an amendatory veto to House Bill 83, and added language that would allow counties to conduct the special Congressional election by automatic absentee mailing. “We can and should help people participate in our democracy by streamlining government and saving taxpayer’s money,” said Gov. Bullock during a press conference. “I take seriously my responsibility to strengthen our democracy by helping make sure that more eligible citizens can participate in that democracy-not fewer. And what is better for democracy than to put a ballot in the hands of every registered voter?”
The Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders and Election Administrators president sent a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Austin Knudsen, asking him to bring an amendment to the House floor as soon as possible that would allow mail-in ballots for the May 25 special election. It’s a proposal that the speaker and other top Republicans oppose, saying such an election process favors Democrats. Voters will cast ballots to fill the seat vacated by Ryan Zinke who was named U.S. secretary of the interior under President Donald Trump. Earlier attempts to get lawmakers to support a mail-in ballot have failed. On Friday, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock used his amendatory veto powers and rewrote House Bill 83, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Bryce Bennett of Missoula. He specified that the special election to fill the vacancy for U.S. representative be conducted by mail.
County election officials need to know this week if a last-ditch effort to run next month’s special congressional election by mail will pass the state Legislature. Next week, counties across the state will start finalizing their list of voters who will cast absentee ballots in that election. On Friday Governor Steve Bullock revived efforts to get the Legislature to OK letting county clerks run mail-only balloting in the special election. The state Senate had already OK’d a bill to do that, but it was killed in a Republican-controlled House committee. So Bullock added mail-balloting language to a an unrelated bill, giving it what’s called an “amendatory veto,” and sent it back to legislative leaders for a vote. But House Republican leaders haven’t scheduled it for a vote, and aren’t talking to the press about Bullock’s action.