Republican leadership suppresses MT voters

HELENA -- Republican leadership gave a resounding endorsement of voter suppression on Friday by voting down a mail ballot bill for the special U.S. House election being carried by a member of their own party.

After SB 305 failed to move from the House Judiciary committee on Wednesday, Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, attempted to revive the bill on the House floor Friday afternoon. But the bill failed to get the three-fifths majority needed to remove it from the committee where it was originally sent by House Republican leadership to die.

SB 305 is the Republican-sponsored legislation introduced to make sure this spring’s special Congressional election is conducted as a mail-ballot one in order to increase voter access and save county election officials as much as $750,000 this spring.

SB 305 has bipartisan support, however, Republican leaders like Rep. Jeff Essmann and House Speaker Austin Knudsen are trying to kill the bill. Essmann, chairman of the state GOP, sent a memo around ahead of the bill's hearing, demanding his fellow party-mates oppose the bill for political reasons.  

Even Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has moved to the extreme right on this bill and doesn’t care that he’s creating extra expenses for the 56 county elections officials charged with conducting this special election. During testimony last week on SB 305 he called their estimated costs “hypothetical.”

“This was a reasonable and responsible cost-savings measure with bipartisan support as county elections officials face this upcoming special election,” said Nancy Keenan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party. “Republican leaders, including our own statewide election administrator Corey Stapleton, have shown they are more interested in suppressing voters’ voices rather than listening to them.”


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