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‘Big Lie’ lives on

by Bob Horne Jr.
| January 10, 2023 12:00 AM

Well, we saw this coming a mile away.

As reported in the Daily Inter Lake (on Christmas Day no less), Montana Republican legislators will use the upcoming session to “take a closer look at Montana’s election laws…” As Senate President Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton explained, “We are being responsive to our constituents…”

Really? He may be “responsive” to his constituents who reside in post-truth America and still believe “The Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, but he’s ignoring the vast majority who realize that the 2020 and 2022 elections were free and fair both across the country and here in Montana.

This so-called election integrity committee will be composed of six legislators; four Republicans and two Democrats. Three of the Republican members are Sen. Theresa Manzella, Rep. Jerry Schillinger, and Rep. Bob Phelan. It just so happens that these three folks attended an election integrity “cyber symposium” last year in South Dakota hosted by America’s No. 1 2020 election denier and all-around right-wing nut case, My Pillow founder Mike Lindell.

According to reports from Salon and other news outlets, that “symposium” was an embarrassment to Mr. Lindell who had promised “proof” of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, but produced nothing. Still, these three legislators demonstrated a clear bias by even attending the event, making their participation on an “election integrity committee” suspect at best.

These same three legislators tried to get this committee off the ground during the 2021 session but got no traction. What they did get was a basket full of voter suppression bills that wound up in court, to the surprise of no one.

So, what can we expect in 2023? For a hint, take a look at Wisconsin. According to Wisconsin Democratic Chairman, Ben Wikler, “What we’ve seen over and over is that Republicans use Wisconsin as a petri dish, as a testing ground, for antidemocracy innovations that they then export nationwide.”

And we know that our Montana hard-core right leaning legislators also have their eyes on the Badger State.

While all of the nefarious measures that the Wisconsin GOP has initiated to cripple progressive causes and candidates are far too numerous to list here, suffice to say that during the tyrannical reign of former Gov. Scott Walker, 33 different voter suppression actions were taken. Included in those was a strict voter ID law that according to a University of Wisconsin study, kept up to 23,000 people from voting. And, Black voters were three times more likely than white voters to claim that they were deterred from voting.

As for the 2023 legislative session that will already be underway as you read this, expect the following:

The “election integrity committee” will find absolutely no proof of widespread voter fraud in Montana for either the 2020 or 2022 elections.

However, the committee will be undeterred in recommending further legislation to make it even more difficult for the young (college students), the elderly, and Native Americans to vote. (These groups tend to vote Democrat.)

Early voting periods will be even shorter. (Democrats tend to vote early.)

Locations for absentee ballot drop-offs will be further reduced. (Democrats tend to vote absentee more than Republicans.)

Voter ID laws will be made even more strict and cumbersome.

Rules for dropping off and collecting ballots will become even more cumbersome. (Collecting and depositing absentee ballots is an important part of life on Montana’s Indian reservations, which are mostly located far from urban centers.)

Another attempt to eliminate same day voter registration. (Very important to those living far from a polling place but don’t have easy access to transportation.)

Everything possible will be done by the Montana GOP in 2023 to protect the super majority in the legislature that they won in 2022.

How is all of this possible? You, Montana voter. You made it possible by blindly voting for the candidates that have that “R” after their names without learning where your candidate actually stands on voting rights. You made it possible by not supporting candidates who believe that democracy works best when more citizens vote, not fewer. The system of partisan voter suppression won’t change if you don’t change how you vote.

Robert Horne, Jr. lives in Whitefish.