Montana Republican Lawmakers Want Election Security Review

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Most of Montana's Republican lawmakers are urging their leadership to appoint a special committee to investigate the security of the state's voting system.

The effort is led by GOP legislators who are pushing false theories of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, the Montana State News Bureau reported. Republicans hold a two-thirds majority in the Legislature.

The letter, signed by 86 of the state's 98 Republican lawmakers, was sent Wednesday to Senate President Mark Blasdel and House Speaker Wylie Galt and asks for a response by Oct. 6. Blasdel declined to comment Friday, and the bureau could not reach Galt for comment.

The letter proposes forming a committee, whose membership also would be two-thirds Republican, to conduct hearings about the election process and security and decide if any new laws are needed.

“Many of our constituents have reached out to us with questions about Montana election security,” the letter says. “All Montana voters must have absolute faith in our state, county and local elections.”

The push to review Montana’s 2020 election and cast doubt on the security of the state’s election system follows similar efforts by Republicans in battleground states won by President Joe Biden, including Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. More recently, reviews have been sought in Texas, Idaho and now Montana — states where former President Donald Trump won.

Trump’s false claims of election fraud have been rejected by both Republican and Democratic judges, his own Justice Department and numerous recounts and audits.

Montana House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, a Democrat from Helena, said the Republican letter offers no evidence that there are any problems with the state's election system.

County election officials run fair and secure elections following state laws, Abbott said Friday, adding that she thinks residents have confidence in the state's election system.

Last week, Republican Sen. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton told the Montana State News Bureau that she wants hand recounts of ballots cast in all 56 counties.

Manzella was an emcee for a recent event in Hamilton where speakers who said hackers infiltrated Montana voter databases and ballot-counting machines. She argued a “forensic audit” was needed to reveal fraudulent votes.

Dana Corson, elections director for the secretary of state's office, said Montana does not certify voting systems that include modems, cellular or networking capabilities, and that voting devices are not connected to the internet, the Daily Inter Lake reported in mid-September.

Republicans won all five of Montana’s statewide elected offices last year, including the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years. Trump won 56% of the vote in Montana, and Manzella won her race with 67% of the vote.

Republican Rep. Geraldine Custer of Forsyth said she signed the letter requesting the committee because she thinks it's going to take something like the proposed review to restore voter confidence.

Republican Sen. Doug Kary of Billings declined to sign on to the letter. He said a 56-county audit would cost a “ridiculous amount of money” and that he doubts an investigation would turn up any voter fraud or election tampering.

Detractors, he said, will likely then argue, “Well, they still did it, we just couldn't find it.”

Republican lawmakers passed several measures this year that they argued were meant to improve election security but Democrats argued were designed to suppress turnout among people who tend to lean Democratic. Four of the bills face legal challenges.