HELENA — The Montana Legislature will not hold a special session next month to set up a committee on election security, after the required number of legislators failed to approve the proposal.
Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen’s Office released the results Tuesday of a poll, asking all 149 sitting legislators whether they supported holding a special session on May 2. A total of 44 lawmakers, all Republicans, supported the call. 60, including 22 Republicans and 38 Democrats, voted against it. The remaining 45 lawmakers did not return their ballots by the deadline.
75 votes – a majority of legislators – were needed to call a special session.
In March, ten Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Jacobsen, calling for the poll. They wanted to propose a “Select Special Interim Joint House and Senate Committee of Election Security,” to investigate the state’s election procedures. In their letter, they pointed to “the continuing and widespread belief, among a significant majority of Montana voters, that sufficient irregularities in election security in Montana create serious doubt as to the integrity of elections in our State.”
The lawmakers said the committee should have subpoena powers and come with funding for legal staff and frequent meetings. They said a special session should be held in May because the Legislature needs “as much time as possible to determine the integrity of the election system” before the June 7 primary.
The lawmakers who signed the letter were Sen. Theresa Manzella and Reps. Paul Fielder, John Fuller, Steven Galloway, Jane Gillette, Fiona Nave, Bob Phalen, Jerry Schillinger, Derek Skees and Brad Tschida.
This was the second attempt this year to have a special session. In February, Gov. Greg Gianforte offered to call a special session to redraw districts for the Montana Public Service Commission, but only if lawmakers promised not to expand it to include other issues. Some Republican legislators had wanted that session to also focus on setting up the election security committee.