Montana will spend $750,000 to avoid making it easier for Democrats to vote

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

Considering that Montana ranks 48th in the country for population density with only 6.5 people per square mile, it’s no surprise that allowing voters to simply cast ballots through the mail would save the state up to $750,000.

Nonetheless, this week, Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R) put the final nail in the coffin of a bill that would have made the state’s upcoming special election all mail-in votes — seemingly to avoid the reality that when barriers to voting are removed, Democrats cast more ballots.

The special election on May 25 will determine who will succeed former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), whom President Trump tapped to serve as Secretary of the Interior. It was actually a Republican state senator, Steve Fitzpatrick, who introduced a bill that would have made it a mail-only election, calling it a “fiscally responsible thing to do.” The bill, however, turned into a partisan ping-pong match that ended with Knudsen’s kill-shot.

Fitzpatrick’s bill had actually passed the Republican-controlled Senate, but not before Montana Republican Chairman Rep. Jeff Essmann distributed an “emergency report” blatantly admitting his concern that the change would advantage Democrats. “All mail ballots give the Democrats an inherent advantage in close elections,” he wrote, “due to their ability to organize large numbers of unpaid college students and members of public employee unions to gather ballots by going door to door.” In other words, Republicans can only win if it’s harder for more people to vote.

Fitzpatrick was able to quell initial concern by pointing out that a majority of Montanans already vote by mail, and the legislation passed the Senate. But then the back-and-forth began.

House Democrats tried to force a vote in late March, because if the measure passed, there needed to be enough time to print and mail all the ballots. A party-line vote in the Judiciary Committee tabled the bill. Rep. Geraldine Custer, a Republican who supported the measure, tried to salvage it from committee with a floor vote, but she fell nine votes short of the 60-vote supermajority necessary to bypass the committee.

Then Gov. Steve Bullock (D) tried to save the bill with his own maneuver, an “amendatory veto,” which essentially added the language back through a separate election bill, putting it back before both chambers for consideration.

The legislature is entering its last week, and Knudsen refuses to schedule a vote. As Speaker, he has the authority to determine what gets considered and what doesn’t. Even though Custer’s strategy seemed to show 51 representatives willing to approve the measure, it would require another 60-vote supermajority to override Knudsen’s decision not to schedule a vote, which seems unlikely. The proposal is effectively dead.

News of the bill’s demise comes as another special election in Georgia heads to a runoff. Democrat Jon Ossoff won 48.1 percent of the vote Tuesday, falling just short of the 50 percent necessary to beat several Republican contenders.

Bullock decried Knudsen for “playing procedural games to prevent this (bill) from reaching the House floor,” accusing him of “spending more taxpayer money to get fewer people to vote.” A spokeswoman for Knudsen simply said that he felt it was “bad policy.”

***

Reposted from Think Progress.

Zack Ford is the editor of ThinkProgress LGBT at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, hailing from the small town of Newport, PA. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Zack blogged for two years at ZackFordBlogs.com with occasional cross-posts at Pam’s House Blend. He also co-hosts a popular LGBT-issues podcast called Queer and Queerer with activist and performance artist Peterson Toscano. A graduate of Ithaca College (B.M. Music Education) and Iowa State University (M.Ed. Higher Education), Zack is an accomplished pianist with a passion for social justice education. Follow him on Twitter at @ZackFord.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work