Republican legislators try to twist U.S. Senate election
Last updated 4/7/2023 at 11:11am
In Montana, we pride ourselves on working together, fair dealing, finding common ground, and protecting our Montana values.
Our fellow Montanans might not expect a former Republican governor, the current chair of the Libertarian Party, and the 2022 Independent candidate for the Eastern Congressional District of Montana to agree on a variety of issues.
But, like our friends and neighbors, we too have a deep and abiding love for our state along with some fear that we’re losing the Montana we raised our families in, from Helena to Kalispell to Billings.
Right now, some Republican members of the Montana Legislature are attempting, at the last minute, to manipulate our election laws as they apply to one political race and one election in 2024, namely the election of a United States Senator.
The bill, Senate Bill 566, sponsored by Sen. Greg Hertz, provides for a “Top Two” primary election in 2024, but only in one race. It is designed to lock out any candidate who does not finish in the “Top Two” in the primary election for the United States Senate from being a candidate in the general election. Shrouded within 58 pages of legislative language is a provision directing that the bill is effective on the day it’s passed by the Legislature and approved by the governor.
Adding insult to injury, even though there’s an election for the office of governor in 2024, both congressional seats, and dozens of state legislative posts, SB 566 ignores all of them and only seeks to change the rules pertaining to the 2024 United States Senate race.
So, apparently the point is to disenfranchise the Libertarian Party candidate with the hope that it benefits the Republican Party candidate, and thereby simultaneously increases the odds of defeating the Democrat candidate. Such a scheme doesn’t come even remotely close to meeting the expectations of good faith and fair play embodied in the election law of Montana.
This whole surreptitious endeavor is just one more example of the unrelenting compulsion of the Republican Party leadership to accumulate political power and control over every form and branch of government. Their first objective was to disassemble and encroach upon the judicial branch of government. And now, out of fear they will not achieve the electoral results they desire, they have devised a plan to change the rules in order to expand their political dominance by precipitating an unearned victory in an election for the United State Senate.
It’s of little surprise that the bill received overwhelmingly negative public testimony, and initially failed when it was brought up for a vote. It seemed that the voices of Montanans had been heard and that the crisis had been averted.
But, sadly, that was not the case.
Not to be denied, the pressure was increased in the Republican caucus and then, without any meaningful public input, SB 566 was resurrected. Shortly thereafter, in spite of the efforts of several thoughtful and fair-minded Republican senators, SB 566 was quickly and narrowly passed by the Republican Senate.
The fate of SB 566 now depends on the good sense and honest purpose of the members of the House of Representatives. The votes of the members will inescapably answer the question of whether changing the law to apply to one race and one election in order to win at any cost is in keeping with the civic values we share in Montana.
Gary Buchanan, 2022 Independent candidate for eastern congressional district
Sid Daoud, Chairman, Montana Libertarian Party
Marc Racicot, former Republican Montana governor