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.
Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen, who also sits on the State Administration Committee, says the republican committee chairman — a Republican — had concerns about the legality of aspects of the voter ID bill.
"I think there were some federal concerns, both constitutional and federal law implications that they were concerned about," says Knudsen. "I don’t think we’ll probably see it recanted at this point. By the time [Rep. Skees] got it redrafted and amendments done up, we’re getting on transmittal, and I don’t know if he’d get it done."
When the bill was proposed last week, Rep. Derek Skees said it was needed to address voter fraud in the state but could not point to any prosecuted examples of the crime.
Opponents of the bill said there was no evidence of voter fraud in Montana, and Skees’ bill would make it harder for some people to vote, especially minorities, senior citizens, students and people with disabilities.