President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee on Wednesday sued Montana's Secretary of State and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock for giving counties the choice to hold the November election by mail, an expansion of a safe voting option during the Covid-19 pandemic that the lawsuit alleges—without evidence—would "invite fraud and undermine the public's confidence in the integrity of elections."
"I don't think it can be emphasized enough that Trump has been emboldened to the point that he sees democracy as his primary rival. He is asking Americans to reject it, and he's not waiting for an election to validate his thinking."
Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics
In a statement announcing the lawsuit (pdf), the RNC called Bullock's initiative to improve voter access and safety during the ongoing deadly outbreak of coronavirus an "unconstitutional vote-by-mail power grab."
But many Republicans in Montana would likely object to that description of Bullock's directive, which "he issued after a request from county clerks statewide," NBC News reported.
According to the secretary of state's elections office, 42 out of 56 counties have already confirmed plans to conduct the November election completely by mail, and voting rights expert Stephen Wolf pointed out that "even many GOP counties" in the state "have opted" to mail ballots to voters ahead of the election.
In a statement, Bullock said:
This template lawsuit appears to be part of a pattern of lawsuits across the country by Republican Party operatives to limit access to voting during the pandemic. Voting by mail in Montana is safe, secure, and was requested by a bipartisan coalition of Montana election officials seeking to reduce the risk of Covid-19 and keep Montanans safe and healthy.
Marc Elias, a lawyer and founder of Democracy Docket, an organization advocating for fair elections, argued that the "GOP is fighting against voting rights everywhere."
September 2, 2020
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For Wolf, Wednesday's lawsuit filed by the President's re-election campaign and the RNC cannot be understood outside of the context of Montana's "hotly contested Senate race" between current Gov. Bullock and Sen. Steve Daines, the Republican incumbent.
Montana has voted mostly by mail for years. In the primary, even *state Republicans* supported mailing every voter a ballot, & even many GOP counties have opted to do so for November.— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) September 2, 2020
Trump & the RNC are freaking out here because Montana has a hotly contested Senate race https://t.co/VjCMLdy6A6
Given the large number of "split ticket voters" in Montana who might support Bullock over Daines regardless of which presidential candidate they prefer and because the outcome of this contest could determine the balance of power in the Senate, some think that the state's voters are key to a potential victory for the Democratic Party.
Trump and the RNC's attempt to limit Montana's recently expanded vote-by-mail option came within hours of Trump's felonious encouragement of voter fraud in North Carolina—where he told residents to vote twice—and Attorney General Barr's failure to acknowledge whether doing so is illegal, as Common Dreams reported earlier on Thursday.
"I don't think it can be emphasized enough that Trump has been emboldened to the point that he sees democracy as his primary rival," said Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, earlier this week.
"He is asking Americans to reject it, and he's not waiting for an election to validate his thinking."