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.
Articles about voting issues in Montana.
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.
Montana: Republicans divided over letting counties use all-mail ballots in special election | Bozeman Daily Chronicle
At an early morning caucus Wednesday, GOP leaders warned that a bill to give counties the option of a mail-ballot election to fill Montana’s congressional seat could cost Republicans the election, even though proponents say it would save taxpayers money. Despite that warning, the Senate’s State Administration Committee approved the bill on a bipartisan 6-2 vote, later in the day. Montana’s anticipating a special congressional election late this spring to fill the U.S. House seat now occupied by Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Republican. President Donald Trump has nominated Zinke to be his secretary of the interior, and his confirmation vote is pending before the U.S. Senate.
Montana: Lawmaker argues special elections request is unfair to Native Americans | Great Falls Tribune
A Senate Bill that would let counties hold a presumptive special election by mail ballot came under criticism Monday by a lawmaker who feared it would not be fair to people who live on reservations who vote at satellite offices. Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, D-Crow Agency, told members of the Senate State Administration Committee that the proposal known as Senate Bill 305 at the behest of the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders was another example of suppressing the Native American vote. She said tribes have undergone litigation with counties in order to get equal access to the polls through satellite offices. “I highly oppose it as it is a form of suppression in my district,” Stewart-Peregoy said, adding “this is another example of the government being forked-tongued.”
After contentious debate over a voter ID proposal, the Republican sponsor has put the brakes on his own legislation. In a move that caught Democrats by surprise, Rep. Derek Skees, a Republican from Kalispell, today asked the House State Administration committee to table his bill. “Thank you so much for hearing the bill, and its discussion,” says Skees. “And I got to say what I wanted to say.” Skees says he will continue to work at changing the problems he sees in the state’s election system but will move those efforts outside of the legislature and to what he calls ‘the folks on the ground, the warriors in the front and the electorate themselves.’ After the committee hearing, Skees said he didn’t want to table the bill and still thinks Montana should have a voter ID law. When asked if his bill was tabled due to lack of support from his own party, he declined to talk about it. Skees also declined to say if the GOP would support future attempts to pass a voter ID bill.
Officials from counties around Montana came to the Capitol Monday, asking lawmakers to let them conduct the election for Rep. Ryan Zinke’s congressional seat by mail ballot. The Senate State Administration Committee held an initial hearing on Senate Bill 305, sponsored by Republican Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls. The bill would give counties the choice of whether to have traditional polling places or only mail ballots for the upcoming special election. The committee heard from dozens of commissioners and elections officials, from counties ranging from Richland to Ravalli. They argue that counties are already facing an unexpected cost to run the election, and switching to all-mail ballots could save them each tens of thousands of dollars. In larger counties like Missoula, Yellowstone and Gallatin, those savings could be closer to $100,000.
The Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders is asking state officials to let them run the special election to fill the U.S. representative seat by mail ballot, saying it could save counties as much as $750,000. Cascade County estimates it would cost $145,000 or more to do the election by polling place and counties, which did not budget for the cost, would be responsible for the tab , officials said. They’ve turned to the state Legislature for help. Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, is carrying Senate Bill 305, which is slated to be heard 2 p.m. Monday by the Senate’s State Administration Committee in Room 335. “This bill makes sense as the mail-ballot process is practiced in all odd-year elections and is about 50 percent of the cost of running the election by poll,” Rina Fontana Moore, the Cascade County clerk and recorder, said via email. It’s a one-time exception to do a federal election by mail ballot, supporters said.
A Republican representative from Kalispell says voters should be required to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Representative Derek Skees introduced his proposal to change Montana’s law during a House Committee meeting today, while opponents argued the bill would make it harder for some people to vote. Rep. Skees says his bill, HB-357, is an attempt to protect the state’s elections system from voter fraud. “To make sure the folks who are voting in Montana, are actually the folks eligible to vote in Montana,” Skees says. Last October, Montana’s then Secretary of State issued a statement saying there were no verified incidents of voter fraud in Montana. During today’s committee meeting on his bill, Representative Skees told lawmakers that he could not point to any prosecuted cases of voter fraud. But he said it could happen and does happen, so safeguards like requiring voters to show photo ID are needed.
Montana: Republican leaders oppose cheaper mail-ballot election to replace Zinke | Bozeman Daily Chronicle
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.”
A Yellowstone County-led bill to make permanent the absentee voter roster has been referred to a state House committee. Bret Rutherford, the county’s election administrator, said on Monday that the proposed legislation, House Bill 287, was referred to the House’s State Administration Committee last Friday. A hearing date has not been set. Rutherford, who wrote the proposed legislation, said he intends to testify for the bill. “Enough is enough. Let’s get this thing done,” he said.