KECI

Ravalli Co. commission supports vote-by-mail election

HAMILTON, Mont. - Montana legislators voted to table a Senate bill that would allow counties to decide if they wanted to hold an all vote-by-mail election.

On May 25 voters will decide who will replace Ryan Zinke in the special Congressional election. Zinke left the position to become Secretary of Interior.

In heated arguments Wednesday lawmakers voted 11-8 against SB 305.

Ravalli County's all-Republican commission supported the bill, which many supporters say would save the state anywhere from  $500,000 to $750,000.

Montana clerks and recorders support the vote-by-mail in this one-time special election because many, if not most, county budgets are tight.

"We have taken the advice of our clerk and recorder, and we've listened to our constituents," said Ravalli County Commissioner Chris Hoffman. "It's not a political issue. It's not right or left. This is what makes the most fiscal sense."

Ravalli County's election administrator also serves as president of the Montana Clerk and Recorders Association.

Regina Plettenberg said the clock is ticking in the deadline to prepare for the May 25 special election. 

"Montana clerks and recorders are still absorbing the tabling of the bill," said Plettenberg. "We have supporters at the Legislature and among the public who want the bill to continue. As a group we would still love to see it pass. But time is not on our side right now."

The elections administrator said a vote-by-mail election would save Ravalli County at least $12,000.

One of the biggest headaches many elections administrators are facing is reserving polling places in time for the special election.  It falls prior to the Memorial Day holiday and some high school graduations.

Since Hamilton High School was not available on the date Plettenberg has reserved a building at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.

NBC Montana found reaction to the vote-by-mail question was mixed. We talked to two Hamilton voters.

"The mail is the way to go," said Phil Difani. "People allege some inconvenience, but I can't imagine it more inconvenient than having to be at a poll at a certain time."

But Richard Stratton disagrees.

"I feel that the mail can be altered," he said. "It could be compromised. When you go out there and actually pull the lever it's different. People don't mind going out to the polls. I'm one of them. That's the job of the American people to get out there and vote."


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