The Montana Republican Party Brings Voter Suppression to Montana
You can bet the Montana Republican Party is proud of it too.
On Monday afternoon, state GOP officials delivered voter registration challenges to Missoula (3,422), Butte-Silverbow (714), Lewis & Clark, Glacier, Deerlodge, Hill, and Roosevelt counties.
So the Montana GOP is challenging 6,000 votes across the state – geared solely at Democratic-leaning and Native American voting areas. Jack Eaton, executive director of the Montana GOP is unapologetic:
The integrity of the voting process is something that has to be above reproach to have faith in the system. We aren’t trying to prevent anyone from voting. We want people to register properly.
“The integrity of the voting process”? “We aren’t trying to prevent anyone from voting”? I’m sorry – what in the hell does he think is going to happen 30 or so days before a presidential election, when county election offices are extremely busy just getting the basic election stuff prepared?
Vicki Zeier, Missoula County election official tells us:
I’m not very happy, obviously,” said Zeier, who “about freaked” when the request appeared in her office on Monday afternoon.
Why? Because under state law, Ms. Zeier – and all counties facing these challenges – have 5 days to notify challenged voters.
Mary McMahon, Butte-Silverbow County election official said her office is short staffed, and the request comes just as her three (three) employees are getting ready to mail out more than 4,000 absentee ballots while still preparing for the Nov. 4 general election.
We’re slammed. We’ll get them all out, but it is just very frustrating right now to get this kind of reaction from either party and have to deal with it.
Missoula County Attorney’s Office is rejecting part of the Montana GOP challenges, saying that 2,200 of the allegations live in the county – and under state law, they get to vote at their old precinct once providing they update their information.
The Montana GOP is taking Missoula County to court on that rejection.
Timing could not come at a worse time. A record number of people have registered to vote, and small understaffed county offices are busy processing the 1,000’s of registrations.
Executive director of the Montana Democratic Party Art Noonan, too, is fighting mad about the situation. According to Ian Maurquand, of Montana’s News Station, “Art Noonan says this week’s challenges of voter residency by his Republican counterpart Jacob Eaton represent a direct attempt to intimidate and suppress Democratic and Native American voters. He also told me that his party recently conducted a 56-county survey of election supervisors and concluded that there are no concerns about voter lists, the registration process or anything else regarding Montana elections.”
Marquand goes on:
Noonan told me the party is reviewing legal options and might try to halt the challenges of some 6,000 voters in seven counties. However, time is running out since county election officials have until Monday to mail notification letters to affected voters. Noonan also said Democrats might offer to help voters cope with the challenges. In Missoula County, voters who have been challenged must fill out a residency affidavit, get it notarized (which some associates have told me is the most challenging part of the process) and send it back to the county. Then, voters who have changed their residence must re-register in the precinct, county, or state to which they’ve moved.
The Montana GOP is desperate. They see their numbers slipping – whether it is the gubernatoral race or the state senate or house races. They’re losing serious ground in rural areas of the state – the Montana League of Rural Voters recently took the rare step of endorsing not one, but two Democratic candidates for the state senate – Lane Larson (SD-22) and Shirley Baumgartner (SD-18). The state GOP made themselves laughing stocks during the 2007 legislature, and now their fighting to maintain.
This ain’t the way to do it.
My guess? This will only pull more Democratic voters out to vote and to register….and when they attempt to take away votes from the young and the Native American voters that have never voted in a presidential election and are excited about participating in the process, they do themselves more harm than any good that ever had a chance of befalling them.
Karma baby, karma.