Montana Public Radio

Alex Rate

For the first time, almost every county in Montana is using all-mail in ballots this election season. Voters can still drop off their ballots in person if they want. But experts say mailing ballots is the best way to make the election accessible during the pandemic. This new system is bringing with it all kinds of uncertainties about logistics, reliability and the timeframe of the results. Still, election officials are trying to figure out how to make it work for everybody.

This is Shared State, a podcast about what's driving Montana's 2020 elections and where the outcomes could lead us. This week, "Equality of Opportunity."

Residents of a corrections facility in Billings remain quarantined amid two recently-discovered COVID-19 cases. Multiple residents say they're concerned the virus could spread further within the building following what they call insufficient care for their safety.

The positive cases were discovered Saturday and Monday at Alpha House pre-release center, where court-ordered offenders typically spend six months receiving counseling and seeking employment before reentering society.

Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday issued a directive aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Montana’s Correctional facilities. But it was dismissed as too little, too late by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and disability rights advocates.

The Montana Supreme Court weighed in late in the afternoon.

The U.S. District Court in Great Falls will allow a lawsuit from two women who claimed they were detained for speaking spanish to proceed against U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Martha Hernández (left) and Ana Suda were detained for 40 minutes in 2018 by a U.S. border agent who overheard them speaking Spanish in Havre.
Brook Swaney / ACLU of Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A woman who is suing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection after an agent questioned her and a friend for speaking Spanish in a convenience store said Friday the backlash to their lawsuit has forced them to move away from their small Montana city.

Lolo resident Eugene Mitchell in a screengrab from an ACLU video
ACLU Montana

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Missoula Wednesday says America’s bail bond industry amounts to organized crime.

The ACLU of Montana is suing five parties in Montana and two out of state insurance companies over an April 2017 incident when armed bounty hunters kicked in the door of Eugene Mitchell’s home in Lolo, and took him away at the direction of a Missoula bail bondsman. That bondsman, the ACLU says, is backed by out of state insurance companies.

Martha Hernández (left) and Ana Suda were detained for 40 minutes in 2018 by a U.S. border agent who overheard them speaking Spanish in Havre.
Brook Swaney / ACLU of Montana

Two Havre women who were detained for 40 minutes last year by a U.S. border agent who overheard them speaking Spanish in Havre are now suing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.

Ana Suda and Martha Hernández, both U.S. citizens with Montana drivers licenses, recorded cell phone video of the incident last May.

Gavel.
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The Montana Supreme Court Wednesday struck down a 2015 state law allowing tax credits for donations to private religious schools.

The court’s 5-2 ruling voids the dollar-for-dollar tax credit, up to $150, which passed, largely along party lines, out of the 2015 Montana Legislature.

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A 24-year old lawsuit over conditions at the Montana State Prison could finally be coming to a close Friday.

The ACLU of Montana and the state Department of Corrections are asking a judge to approve a settlement to address conditions at the prison for inmates with disabilities at a hearing in Missoula.

Alex Rate is the legal director for ACLU Montana.

"It’s an unfortunate reality that prisoners who are disabled face all sorts of barriers to accessing programs and accessing physical spaces," Rate said. "And that’s been the situation for many decades - not just at Montana State Prison, but across the country."

Border Agent Questions 2 Women For Speaking Spanish

May 21, 2018
Police car.
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HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are reviewing an encounter between a Border Patrol agent and two women who were speaking Spanish at a gas station in northern Montana, the agency said Monday.

Allegations have been made before of law-enforcement officers in Montana racially profiling people to find out their immigration status.

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