Republicans who lost a lawsuit to block all-mail voting in Montana have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop county election officials from mailing ballots this week, while the case is on appeal.
The emergency application to the Supreme Court came after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined to stop 45 Montana counties from mailing ballots to all registered voters this Friday.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen of Missoula rejected the suit by several state and national Republican groups, officials and candidates seeking to invalidate Gov. Steve Bullock’s Aug. 6 order that allowed counties to use all-mail ballots for the Nov. 3 election
County election officials had requested the order because of fears about in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ravalli County Republican Central Committee and five voters from Park and Stillwater counties – two of whom are Republican candidates for the Legislature – appealed Christensen’s order to the 9th Circuit.
The 9th Circuit will hear the appeal, but not until January, prompting the plaintiffs to seek the emergency order blocking the counties from mailing ballots Friday. Eleven Montana counties chose to have polls open on Nov. 3, as well as mail ballots to those requesting them.
President Trump’s re-election campaign and national Republican groups filed suit earlier; the two cases were combined before Christensen, who ruled last Wednesday.
The suits said Bullock violated state law and the U.S. constitution when he gave Montana counties the power to decide whether to use all-mail ballots for the Nov. 3 general election.
Only the Legislature has the power to allow all-mail ballots for a statewide election, and all-mail ballots could lead to election fraud and dilute the power of legitimate votes, the suit said.
Christensen said in his ruling that the Republican plaintiffs produced no evidence of voter fraud in Montana, connected with mail ballots, and that the June primary election had been held via mail without any serious problems.
Bullock issued the order under his emergency powers during the Covid-19 pandemic.