Petition circulating on mail-in ballot decision


Last updated 8/18/2020 at 11:27am

State Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Havre, is gathering signatures for a petition asking the Hill County Commission to reconsider its recent decision not to implement mail-in voting for the upcoming 2020 general election.

Bachmeier, who is also chair of the Hill County Central Committee, said this is a personal project of his and that it is not in association with the Hill County Democratic party.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s bull that they didn’t go to an all-mail ballot election to begin with,” Bachmeier said, “The county commissioners are putting the health and safety of Hill County residents at risk.”

He also said the commission may be putting the county at risk of being sued if an outbreak of COVID-19 as a result of in person voting.

“Mail Ballot Discussion” is listed in the county needs section of the Hill County Commission weekly business meeting agenda released Monday shortly after Bachmeier was interviewed.

Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson said this morning that the discussion would be an opportunity for people to make comment on the commission's decision.

He said he is aware of the petition and he's received many responses from the community for and against a mail-in ballot.

Bachmeier said he and his associates started gathering signatures Friday and are still gathering signatures and he hasn’t seen an estimate of how many they have so far, but he said that they have gotten signatures from some election judges who have refused to serve in this cycle for fear of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to their families.

Bachmeier said this is an especially important concern given that the average age of election judges in the county is 69.

“If the commissioners are going to force in-person voting,” he said, “they better be the first ones to sign up as election judges.”

Bachmeier said people can already vote by mail with absentee ballots getting registered in person still puts people at risk and adding extra hurdles to get registered is unnecessary.

“Voting by mail doesn’t hurt anyone’s right to vote,” he said, “it makes it more accessible … it’s not that hard to figure out that mail ballot voting increases democracy. It doesn’t hurt it, and it’s just the safe, right thing to do.”

The petition itself also provides a list of reasons why its signers believe mail-in voting is the right thing to do, one of which is that mail-in voting has been shown to increase turnout and was handled efficiently during June’s primary.

He also addressed a statement made by Hill County Commissioner Diane McLean at last week’s business meeting using mail ballots is “taking the easy way out.“

“Making voting easier for citizens who are registered to vote is a good thing,” Bachmeier said. “Making it harder for every day Montanans is voter suppression, it’s that simple.”

Approving a mail ballot election in response to a global pandemic, he said, does not represent a permanent change.

Bachmeier said if the commission doesn’t reverse its decision, he would consider making a social media campaign further calling out the commission for its actions, as well as a campaign to get people in the area signed up for absentee ballots.

“If we have to get people registered to vote by mail one at a time then we’ll do it,” he said, “But I think the county commissioners need to step up and do the right thing.”


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