The Billings Gazette editorial board raises a very important point about Montana elections and the 2019 Montana Legislature:
Disclosure and public access are vital to free and fair elections. That’s why we urge Gazette readers to stay alert for changes that may be floated during the upcoming Montana Legislature.
Several legislators have requested bill drafts to change campaign finance laws, but no text was available earlier this week. Other election bill requests include:
- Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka: Revise voter registration to end at 5 p.m. the Friday prior to election. (Registration now ends at 8 p.m. on Election Day.)
- Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell: Eliminate the office of political practices. Skees has another bill request to “revise laws related to strengthening voter identification.”
Derek Skees has no ones best interests at heart when he brings forth these dangerous and bogus bills. He is merely looking to suppress voters chance to vote so that he can try to shape his own electorate.
We saw this in 2017 when Jeff Essmann was caught as GOP chair trying to kill an all-mail ballot bill for the special Congressional election that would have saved Montana counties $750,000. Republicans like Essmann and Skees only have partisanship in mind and don’t care about being fiscally responsible when it comes to maintaining power. This is authoritarian thinking.
Essmann and Skees are intellectually dishonest and genuinely dangerous to the future or our democracy.
Senator Cuffe’s bill is also completely useless and has been defeated at the polls by Montana voters when they defeated LR-126 in 2014. Montanans want same-day voter registration. It is convenient and necessary.
The Billings Gazette makes some great points:
Montana has been fortunate that our good election laws have, so far, protected us from some of the voter suppression tactics that have been used in other states. Voter roll purges kept thousands from voting in states that cut off voter registration before Election Day. Montana’s late registration law protects voter rights because they may still register and vote on Election Day.
Requiring voters to have identification that many of them don’t possess has kept people ranging from college students to Native Americans from casting ballots. Montanans must beware of any proposal that makes casting a ballot more difficult.
This wouldn’t be the first time that lawmakers tried to abolish the Commissioner of Political Practices Office. Getting rid of Montana’s campaign watchdog is a bad idea; the office is needed more than ever as money floods into our elections.
Counties are in need of updated election equipment. Lawmakers and the state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, should recognize the costs that elections place on county governments and work with counties to find equitable solutions. After all, county officials and lawmakers are supposed to be serving the same constituents — the people of Montana.
Many bill requests won’t actually be introduced as legislation and fewer still will become law. But it is important to keep an eye on how lawmakers may seek to change the fundamental rights of Montana residents to vote, to know about candidates, issues and spending. Changes to election laws should make the process more accessible to all eligible voters — not less accessible.