Montana lawmakers call on legislature to investigate 2020 election
Two Republican state lawmakers held talks with the Montana Legislative Council on Monday to reiterate a call made earlier this fall for the formation of a special legislative committee to investigate alleged irregularities in Montana’s 2020 election. . This appeal was originally submitted to the legislative branch in an October 5 letter signed by 86 Republican lawmakers.
Addressing the council during the public comments, Senator Theresa Manzella, R-Stevensville, acknowledged the challenges outlined in an Oct. 15 response from the Legislative Services, namely that forming such a committee would require approval from a majority of the State House. Manzella presented the board with two possible alternatives: appointing a committee made up entirely of state senators, which Senate Speaker Mark Blasdel has the power to do; or poll members of the House by phone, e-mail and regular mail “with a view to determining whether they would be prepared to support this vote and this special select committee.”
Manzella called for funds to be made available for the investigation from an account reserved for the Legislative Council to address “emerging issues”, or possibly from federal COVID-19 relief funds allocated to the state. She suggested the latter might be eligible since Montana’s decision to hold the 2020 election by mail was a direct response to the pandemic and “created a lot of issues and allegations that we seek to address.”
“It is very important to recognize that this effort is in fact driven by our citizens who demand that we, this legislative body, do our job and abide by our constitutional guidelines to ensure the purity of the elections and guard against abuse of the electoral process.” , said Manzella. .
Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, also came to the lectern on Monday to encourage the board to follow up on the request. Tschida echoed Manzella in calling the push for a legislative election security inquiry “citizen-driven” and repeated his allegations of irregularities in the 2020 general election in Missoula County. These claims are based on a count of citizen ballot affirmation envelopes taken last January by a group called the Missoula County Election Integrity Project, of which Tschida is a member. The group, which has since been renamed the Montana Election Integrity Project, gained access to the envelopes through a request for public documents made by Tschida to the Missoula County Elections Office.
Missoula County Election Officer Bradley Seaman has consistently defended his office practices as well as the county’s 2020 election results.
“Voters all over the world want to see some kind of assurance that the elections are fair, honest and open,” Tschida said. “And our goal, as Senator Manzella said, is to provide an opportunity to collect data to prove or disprove irregularities, if any.”
No other lawmakers offered a public comment on Monday in support or opposition to the request.
During his comments, Tschida listed several issues he said voters approached him about, including receiving ballots addressed to long-deceased relatives. Such anecdotal evidence, he said, suggests that state electoral rolls “were not well kept.” Republican lawmakers addressed this issue this spring by passing Senate Bill 170, which requires Montana election administrators to perform annual maintenance of recorded voters lists. Tschida first made his allegations about irregularities in Missoula County known publicly when he testified in favor of SB 170 on the house floor in March.
As for funding a special investigative committee, Tschida also recommended that the Legislative Council consider tapping into federal relief funding. He estimated the effort would require around $ 50,000, which he described as a “paltry shortfall.”
Helena resident Mary Beveridge joined Manzella and Tschida’s call to action, which made many of the same allegations of voting irregularities and loopholes in the state’s existing election laws. Beveridge said she was concerned about a “lack of electoral integrity” in Montana over the past decade, and suggested that determining a clear definition of voter fraud would be a good place for the legislature begins its work. In 2013, Beveridge testified in support of a bill to end same-day voter registration, identifying herself at the time as the founder of a group called the Montana Voter Integrity Project.
“We need to look at best practices statewide, in all counties,” Beveridge said. “We need to look at the tracking of the ballot inventory. Our ballots should be treated as an asset, just as you would a cash drawer or any other asset you own in a business. And when we ask our election administrators this, we shouldn’t be berated for asking for this information. “
Voter fraud argument gets hearing with Montana Justice Department
Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s office confirmed a previously unreported meeting with MyPillow founder Mike Lindell and election-skeptic State Senator Theresa Manzella R-Stevensville on November 10. At the time, Lindell was trying to gain support from state attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 presidential election.
The calls follow an effort by Manzella and Tschida last month to secure Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s signature in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 presidential election results in the United States Supreme Court. This proposed challenge was led by MyPillow founder and 2020 Election critic Mike Lindell, who attended a November 10 meeting at Knudsen’s office as a guest of Manzella, according to Knudsen’s spokesperson, Emilee Cantrell. Manzella confirmed to Montana Free Press last week that Knudsen refused to sign the lawsuit.
The board did not discuss the special committee’s request, and no member responded to Manzella or Tschida’s statements. Blasdel noted that since the council has already made a plan to spend its funding for “emerging issues,” it still doesn’t know what resources could be used to fund the demand.
“That was my concern,” Blasdel told the room before concluding the meeting. “It’s not if I can put the committee in place, it’s where can I look for the resources to fund it.”
Montana asks US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove NCDE grizzly bears from list
Governor Greg Gianforte’s office today announced that the state is asking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, citing robust population counts and touting the state’s ability to independently manage Montana’s grizzly bears, which have been federally protected since 1975.
Madison River flow returns after midnight dam repair
While flows are much closer to seasonal levels following a repair to the Hebgen Dam outlet valve, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says “lasting impacts on fishing are still unknown.”