State and county election officials are fine with freak snowstorms, wayward election ballots, power outages and other nuisances. What they’re not fine with is holding an unscheduled statewide election on a shoestring, which is exactly how much money was budgeted.
Few right-thinking individuals could have predicted that President Donald Trump would pick frosh U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke for Interior Secretary, thereby forcing a May 25 congressional election to fill that seat. Sure, he has a gun and orange vest, but he is as qualified to head the Interior Department as Trump is to head the nation. Notably, he leaves his congressional office owing the people of Montana $36,707 for drawing a salary while hiding from constituents between the time he was nominated and confirmed. Maybe he was at home…in California.
We’re happy to be shed of him, but regret this new threat to our nation’s public lands, wildlife, Native American sovereignty and any other issue he espoused prior to his appointment, but will now likely buckle under pressure to under pressure from his boss, i.e., the president’s son.
(Note to Ryan: The way things are going, you’ll be looking for a new job in four years, if not sooner, and you can stop pretending you live here.)
Montana election clerks have lobbied for a mail-in ballot for the election. It’s secure, it’s efficient and envelopes (shipping and handling!) cost maybe one-fifth the amount of money needed to staff judges at polling places. Everyone agrees a mail-in ballot is a smart way to save taxpayers an estimated $500,000 in these times of fiscal constraint.
Eh, almost everyone. In an incredulous, tone-deaf, overtly partisan move that rivals what’s going on in Washington D.C., a bill by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls) for a one-time mail-in ballot for the May 25 election is stuck in the House Judiciary Committee. Key legislators, especially Rep. Jeff Essmenn (R-Billings) the state Republican chairman, are threatening to sit on it until it dies a horrible death. One jokester suggested they reconsider it at the next scheduled legislative session. Ha ha.
What possible reason could legislators have to kill a bill that is supported by every county election clerk in the state? Regrettably, I am not making this up:
#5: Mail-in ballots are a gateway drug that lead to legalizing recreational marijuana.
#4: Those thousands of pesky women voters who marched all over the Capitol lawn in Helena following President Trump’s inauguration are threatening to use those new Wonder Woman stamps.
#3: Mail-in ballots support fraud, crime, pregnancy, welfare, entitlements, unions, strikes, public television, Meals on Wheels, cancer research, environmental regulations, public schools, banking regulation, immigrants, minimum wages, background checks for AK-47s and Sen. Ted Cruz, things all Republicans hate.
#2: You don’t get an “I Voted” sticker.
#1: And it would make elections more accessible to all voters, including the poor, college students and Democrats.
Some county clerks say they will have to ask their county commissioners for emergency funds to hold an election at regular polling places, stretching tight county budgets. Meanwhile, the House will hold a hearing on the mail-in vote measure on Thursday at 8 a.m. This is a bellwether moment for House Republicans. Save a cool half-million for Montana taxpayers, or piss away any pretense that you represent the people – your friends and neighbors – who sent you to Helena.