Sunday, October 22, 2017

SB 305 fails to get backing of MT House

Senate Bill 305, the bill the Montana Legislature giving counties the option to hold the special election to fill the state’s now vacant United States House Seat by mail ballot, has reached the end of its legislative journey short of the governor’s desk.

HOUSE PROBLEMS
The last article about SB 305 in SCN left it transmitted to the House following its passage on third reading in the Senate with a bipartisan 37-13 vote.
In the House, the bill ran into problems.
As the May 25 special election date neared, time was of the essence for SB 305. From the first reading in the Senate until transmittal to the House, the legislative process took six days. The process in the House took significantly longer – 31 days from the first reading to the final failed motion.
The House committee chosen for the bill’s hearing was the Judiciary Committee, an interesting choice as most election-related bills are overseen by the State Administration Committee (where this bill was heard in the Senate).
The March 23 hearing for SB 305 was heated, with 58 proponents and about a dozen opponents.
After almost a week, the committee made its decision on March 29 to table the bill with a party-line vote of 11-8.
A March 31 attempt to “blast” the bill from the committee to the House floor for further discussion and votes failed, 51-49. Due to the nature of the motion, three-fifths of the House was required for it to pass – the motion failed by about 10 votes.
Representative Forrest Mandeville voted against the blast motion.

WHAT NOW?
Now that SB 305 is dead, Montana counties must hold a poll election on Thursday, May 25.
The Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders and Election Administrators detailed some important dates in a recent press release:
April 25 (prior to 5 p.m.): Deadline for new voter registration applications; due to the county elections office
April 26 – May 24 (by noon): Late registration must be completed in the local election office; during late registration, voters will receive a ballot
May 24 (by noon): Deadline for completing absentee ballot request
The Association also stressed that the failure of SB 305 did not affect current absentee voters – they will still receive their ballot in the mail some time after May 1.
If anyone would like to confirm whether or not they are on the mail ballot list, they should visit www.MyVoterPageMT.com.
The final message in the press release encourages voters who intend to vote at a polling place to contact their local election administrator to confirm the location of the polls. Due to the unusual timing of the election – on a Thursday, toward the end of school years, near Memorial Day weekend – many locations may have changed or moved.
The News will provide a list of Stillwater County polling place locations as the election nears.