High Court Refuses to Block Mail-In Voting in Montana

The U.S. Supreme Court. (Courthouse News photo/Jack Rodgers)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court on Thursday denied an emergency motion from Montana Republicans to block the state’s plan to send mail-in ballots to voters, a day before they are expected to go out.

Justice Elena Kagan rejected the application for injunctive relief from the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee and others without an explanation Thursday afternoon.

The Ninth Circuit denied the group’s emergency motion on Tuesday, which would have prevented state election offices from mailing ballots to all registered voters on Friday.

In a statement on the Supreme Court’s denial, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, expressed confidence in election officials across the state.

“Our local election administrators are well prepared to make sure Montanans can exercise their right to vote and to protect the integrity of our election, while keeping our citizens safe,” he said. “I’m pleased they will be able to move forward with doing just that.”

The Republicans’ application to the Supreme Court argues mail-in voting poses “myriad dangers, including fraud, pressure or coercion to vote in a particular way,” along with other potential risks. Voters also are disenfranchised, they claim, through delays in which they would receive their absentee ballots due to the surge in ballot requests.

“Mailed ballots also have a rejection rate of 100 times in-person voting, ballots are rejected at higher rates for African Americans, young people, and first-time voters and an NPR analysis found that more than 550,000 ballots were rejected in this year’s presidential [primaries],” the motion states.

Voter fraud claims in America are at historic lows. In the 2016 election, where more than 137.7 million Americans voted, officials from 26 states and the District of Columbia told the New York Times they had no credible evidence of voter fraud. Eight other states only knew of one allegation of fraud and all 50 had no reports of widespread manipulation.

In the lower court ruling that was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Helena wrote that the case “requires the court to separate fact from fiction” when dissecting the plaintiffs’ argument.

“When pressed during the hearing in this mater, the Plaintiffs were compelled to concede that they cannot point to a single instance of voter fraud in Montana in any election during the last 20 years,” Christensen wrote. “Importantly, Montana’s use of mail ballots during the recent primary election did not give rise to a single report of voter fraud.”

Governor Bullock said in August that mail-in-ballot options would be sweepingly expanded throughout the Treasure State, issuing a directive that allowed all of Montana’s 56 counties to hold all-mail elections this November.

Bullock that while in-person voting would still be allowed, giving counties the option to hold mail-in elections would help to ensure that voters’ health and right to vote could be equally protected.

Republicans had also argued Montana’s mail-in provisions should be limited to local elections. They claimed that thousands of ballots never made it to their destinations in the state’s primary election, citing local news reports.  

Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed over 210,000 Americans, is a “national tragedy,” their motion states, but “posed no emergency to justify” the mail-in voting directive as Montanans are free to request absentee ballots.

“Thousands of ballots in Montana’s primary did not reach their intended recipients, in Gallatin County, 4,500 voters,” the motion states. “And in Lewis and Clark County 1,600 were returned as undeliverable. Mizzoula County’s Election Administer admitted that, ‘since it was an all-mail ballot election, we had a lot of undeliverable ballots.’”

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