Stop that voter!

Our Point of View
By MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver

March-April 2014

(NOTE: Since this was written, the Montana Supreme Court struck down LR 127. This is great news for voters' rights in Montana.)

It matters who votes…and it matters who wins.

The power to vote is the one institution all citizens own, in which we all have the opportunity to participate, each and every one of us.

The power to vote distinguishes our democracy from despotism.

And whether our preferred candidates win or lose, the power to vote must never be abridged, compromised, or forestalled.

So, when Republican partisans promote obstacles for voters…and attempt to orchestrate a premeditated electoral outcome, this union and all who believe in our democracy must stand up and say NO.

Almost a year ago, toward the end of the 2013 Legislature, the Republican-dominated Montana State Senate rushed two bills through the Senate over the vociferous, desk-pounding opposition of minority party Democrats.

Senate Bills 405 and 408 had to pass over to the House that day or they would have died. And pass they did, with the Republican majority unanimously voting YES…and Democrats unanimously voting…well in fact they didn’t vote at all. A brittle moment. Not to be forgotten.

SBs 405 and 408 passed the Republican-dominated House no sweat.

These two bills are now Legislative Referenda 126 and 127 respectively. They will both (maybe) appear on the November general election ballot.

Vote NO!

If we fail to secure a NO vote in 2014, come 2016, Montanans will have reduced the number and kind of citizens voting in the general election and inflicted upon themselves one-party primary election outcomes.

LR 126 ends general election day registration, denying the vote to citizens who may have moved around a bit like college students, military personnel, senior citizens, and Native Americans.

Apparently, majority party Republicans think citizens like these should not be permitted to register and vote on election day because doing so leads to long voter lines and waits, or more work for county clerks and recorders…or because these voters might, maybe, perhaps vote for Democrats?

LR-127 eliminates our closed primary system wherein a voter must pick a party ticket …and further directs that only the top two vote recipients, regardless of party, go onto the general election.

As LR 127 eliminates third-party candidates from appearing in the general election, it promotes one-party elections. This latter outcome is more than likely in legislative districts dominated by Democratic and Republican voters.

They do this in California!

It should be obvious that the Republican majority in the last legislature would with LRs 126 and 127 have Montanans affirm its majority party status well into the future and eliminate third-party candidates. So much for independent voters.

MEA-MFT filed petitions in the Montana Supreme Court challenging the legal sufficiency of LRs 126 and 127. We asked the court to toss both from the general election ballot.

The court agreed with us that the title of SB 405 and the attorney general’s initial purpose statement on LR 126 were inaccurate and misleading but then directed the attorney general to rewrite the purpose statement. Not the victory we were looking to achieve. We must still defeat LR 126 at the polls. As we do, we will be sure to note throughout our campaign that partisan supporters wanted to fool voters into thinking LR 126 had something to do with the National Voter Registration Act. It does NOT.

As for LR 127, we wait the Supreme Court’s decision. We have challenged the referendum stating that SB 408 had more words in its title than law permits, a lot more words. And further LR 127 logrolls voters into voting for two issues in one. An open primary need not require the top two vote recipients to advance to the general election.

Bottom line, vote NO.