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.
The absence of the bill on the Monday and Tuesday agenda for the House moves the mail-in balloting option closer to becoming irrelevant, as county elections officials start planning the May 25 special election.
Bryce Bennett, the bill’s sponsor says he’s optimistic the bill will pass, even though the Republican leadership hasn’t scheduled a bill for debate:
“This language is going to get passed, I remain certain in the fact that we are going to have a debate on the House floor and until that bill is brought to the House floor we are going to have to make sure that Montanans are having their voice shared with the Speaker and know that they won’t stand for him sitting this in his desk drawer as opposed to letting us have a real debate.”