Our View: Shame on McLean and Peterson for endangering people's lives


Last updated 8/17/2020 at 7:46am

Editor’s note: This version has been edited to reflect that people can make online requests for absentee ballots.

Shame, shame on Hill County Commissioners Diane McLean and Mark Peterson.

With a stroke of the pen, they have put people's health and very lives at risk.

McLean and Peterson voted down a resolution that would have sent mail ballots to every active registered voter in the county, giving them the option to avoid going to the polls and risking being exposed to COVID-19.

And praise goes to Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland, who voted for the resolution.

At the same time, the vote was, in some ways, meaningless, because anyone who wants to vote by mail can go to the clerk and recorder and sign up for an absentee ballot and still vote by mail.

But the commissioner’s vote means people won't be automatically offered that ballot, so they have to take an extra step, a step that means added exposure for themselves and for county employees if they don't or can't make the request online.

And voting for the resolution wouldn't have taken away the ability to vote at the polls, either. Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive requires county clerk and recorders to have polling places for people who don't want to vote by mail.

But McLean and Peterson’s vote implies they oppose mail voting, at a time when people around the world, including in the United States, including in Montana, including in Hill County, are becoming sick from COVID-19.

And they are doing that at a time when people around the world, including in the United States, including in Montana, including in Hill County, are dying from COVID-19.

Clerk and recorders around the state have lamented the fact that it is becoming harder and harder to find people willing to work at the polls, and how the people working the polls mostly are in an aging population.

How easy will it be to find election judges in a time when COVID-19 is spreading throughout the country?

All of the arguments against mail ballots have been debunked. Hill County uses mail ballots for city elections and successfully used them, with no major problems and an extremely high turnout, for this year’s primary elections.

Peterson and McLean did not block the primary mail in ballot as they could have.

Other states have used mail ballots for years, with Oregon and Washington using mail ballots for every election for decades — with no major problems.

McLean and Peterson need to find out whether they can reconsider their vote. The Hill County Commission should try putting mail ballots back on their agenda and, this time, approve it.

And people should let them know how they feel. Peterson said Thursday he has received a couple of dozen comments — out of the 16,000 people living in the county — and most of them opposed the mail ballot proposal.

Anyone who thinks voting the resolution down was a mistake should let McLean and Peterson know that.

Maybe then they will try to reconsider their ill-conceived vote and approve mail ballots.

And maybe save some lives.


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