Dem Bullock Changes Voting Rules As He Eyes Senate Seat

GOP suit challenges Dem's executive orders that affect his Senate bid

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September 2, 2020

The Trump campaign, Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Montana GOP filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Democratic governor Steve Bullock's "unconstitutional" executive order allowing counties to vote entirely by mail.

Bullock—who is running to unseat Sen. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) in a race vital to determining the Senate majority in 2020—issued an August order that allows counties to conduct all-mail voting in the upcoming November election. Republicans are asking a federal district court to block the implementation of the order, saying that the Democratic governor overstepped his authority in "a direct usurpation of the legislature’s authority." The suit said the order was a nakedly political move designed to boost Bullock's candidacy.

"The Governor’s power grab under the cover of COVID-19 is particularly egregious. The Governor is running for U.S. Senate as a member of the Democratic Party, and his race is one of the most competitive in the country," the suit says. "He is using his current position to force a brand-new election system on Montanans that, according to his own party, will sway the election in his favor."

Bullock called the challenge a "template lawsuit."

"Voting by mail in Montana is safe, secure, and was requested by a bipartisan coalition of Montana election officials seeking to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and keep Montanans safe and healthy," Bullock told the Washington Free Beacon. "This is the same directive that the Republican President of the Senate and Republican Speaker of the House said was the right thing to do for the June primary. Today, we have many more active cases of COVID-19 than we did back in June."

Bullock's office did not respond to a follow-up on his order's constitutionality.

Trump campaign general counsel Matthew Morgan called the order a "unilateral power grab," noting that the "last-minute election rule changes" would "stack the deck for his own Senate race."

"The power to direct Montana's elections lies with the state's legislature, which already has key safeguards in place to protect each Montana voter's ballot," Morgan said in a statement. The RNC went on to accuse Bullock of "manipulating the state's election processes while he is also a candidate on the ballot for the U.S. Senate."

Bullock's order allows counties to determine their own vote-by-mail and early voting measures, creating a "patchwork election code with no uniform procedures," according to RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. While Montana's current vote-by-mail system requires voters to request a ballot, Bullock's order allows counties to send unsolicited ballots to all registered voters.

"Upending our elections process in the 11th hour is a recipe for disaster," McDaniel said in a statement.

Update 1:52 p.m.: This post has been updated to include comment from Bullock's office.