Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Lawmakers to be polled on special session to investigate Montana elections

by KEITH SCHUBERT Daily Montanan
| March 22, 2022 7:00 AM

The Montana Secretary of State will poll state legislators over the next month on whether they want to convene a special session to investigate the state’s elections systems.

This week, a group of 10 GOP legislators submitted the request to Christi Jacobsen’s office. For months, a handful of Republican lawmakers have been lobbying for a special session that would include an investigative committee to probe the security of Montana’s elections. The proposed convening date of the intended single-day special session is May 2.

Despite a lack of evidence showing widespread voter fraud — and sweeping wins by the GOP in 2020 — the letter says the special session and resulting committee are necessary to resolve any election integrity issues.

“The conditions warranting the call are the continuing and widespread belief, among a significant majority of Montana voters, that sufficient irregularities in election security in Montana create serious doubt as to the integrity of elections in our State,” the letter reads.

The committee would be made up of three senators and six representatives appointed by Republican leadership and confirmed through votes in each chamber. And it would have the power of subpoena and taking testimony under oath, according to the letter. The session would cost $108,000 for the first day and $56,000 for any additional days, according to the Montana State News Bureau.

For the special session to be called, 76 legislators need to vote in favor of the effort in the next 30 days. Republicans control 98 of the 150 legislative seats.

And Democrats have made it clear they want no part in the effort.

“Montana’s elections are among the most well-run and secure elections in the country. We know this, and Republicans know it too. Any special session we’d hold to ‘confirm’ this basic fact would amount to little more than a taxpayer-funded campaign stunt designed to push a D.C. narrative that has nothing to do with Montana elections or the Montanans who run them,” Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour and House Minority Leader Kim Abbott said in a joint statement.

Earlier this year, Republicans were close to calling a special session to redraw the state’s unconstitutional Public Service Commission districts. GOP leadership made it clear that if the session were called, they wanted it to be solely focused on PSC redistricting, but a group of lawmakers soured the effort by trying to extend the session to include an election integrity committee.

The letter sent to Jacobsen this week was signed by Republicans Sen. Theresa Manzella, Rep. Bob Phalen, Rep. Jerry Schillinger, Rep. Steven Galloway, Rep. Paul Fielder, Rep. Fiona Nave, Rep. Brad Tschida, Rep. Jane Gillette, Rep. Derek Skees and Rep. John Fuller.