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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Democrats say election security committee is a waste of time

A mail ballot from the 2020 Montana primary elections.
Nicky Ouellet
Yellowstone Public Radio
A mail ballot from the 2020 Montana primary elections.

A special committee on election security will have its first meeting at the Montana Legislature on Thursday. Republicans and Democrats are at odds over its purpose. Republican Sen. Carl Glimm from the Flathead will chair the special select committee on election security. He says the six-person, Republican majority committee will have two main goals.

“I would like to see us come out the other end with good legislation, if we deem that it’s necessary, and I would like for us to be able to give assurance to the citizens of Montana that our elections are the best they can be.”

Glimm did not point to a specific case where elections have been flawed, but said there’s always room for improvement.

Glimm says lawmakers are responding to concerns about election security from constituents, and will ask for expert testimony about how to prosecute election fraud, the chain of command of ballots at county elections offices and how ballot tabulation machines work.

After the 2020 election, some Republicans alleged widespread voter fraud and called into question the security of ballot tabulation. Those claims have been dismissed in court and by election officials.

Two Democrats will sit on the committee, but have called it “a waste of time” and a way for Republicans to push for further voting regulations.

Democratic Sen. Shane Morigeau from Missoula will sit on the committee and says he aims to block any attempt to undermine Montana’s elections.

“We should 100% make sure our elections are secure and I think what we’ve seen though is that they are doing a good job. And if we’re going to bring a plethora of bills to do that I think is just not right, trying to create chaos and discredit things when there’s no credibility to it.”

Republicans in the Legislature passed bills in 2021 to further regulate elections in Montana. New laws to restrict voter identification acceptable at the polls, restrict ballot drop-offs and eliminate same-day voter registration were challenged in court, and later struck down in Yellowstone County District Court.

The state has appealed that decision to the Montana Supreme Court, which has not yet handed down a ruling.

Glimm said the findings of the court should not influence the work of the committee, saying the Legislature is a separate branch of government.

The committee will hold its first meeting Thursday. Any legislation approved by the special committee will have to be reviewed by additional lawmakers before it can pass.

Get a recap of this week's action at the Montana Legislature with news and analysis from Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels. Online Friday afternoons. On air Saturdays at 9:44 a.m.
The campaign rhetoric, struggles for political power and results of the 2022 election converge in the 68th meeting of the Montana Legislature. Join us Monday mornings for The Session -- a breakdown of the latest action we’re watching in the statehouse, produced by Montana Public Radio, Yellowstone Public Radio and Montana Free Press.Listen Mondays at 7:45 a.m. starting Jan. 9.Subscribe

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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