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Election Security Bill, Amended To Limit Who Can Handle Absentee Ballots, Headed To Governor

Wendy McKamey speaks into a microphone surrounded by her seated colleagues in the state capitol building.
Montana Public Affairs Network
Montana Republican Rep. Wendy McKamey introduces an amendment to House Bill 530 on April 27, 2021.

Legislation limiting who can handle absentee ballots during election season cleared the Montana Legislature Tuesday largely along party lines.

An initially uncontroversial bill granting the secretary of state’s office rulemaking authority to boost election security was amended with the rule to prevent someone from turning in somebody else’s absentee ballot if they’re paid to do so.

Sponsor and Ulm Republican Rep. Wendy McKamey said the provision is a needed voting safeguard.

“We want to keep it as clear and transparent and uninfluenced by monies as possible,” Ulm said.

Browning Democratic Rep. Tyson Running Wolf said the amendment prevents Indigenous get-out-the-vote groups from collecting ballots in rural tribal communities, disenfranchising residents who lack consistent access to mail service and polling places.

“Ballot collection is the only way for many of the voters to make sure their vote is counted and voices are being heard,” Running Wolf said.

Bozeman Democratic Rep. Denise Hayman accused Republicans of trying to pass a backdoor version of a previous law limiting ballot collection that was struck down in court.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America statehouse reporter.