HELENA — President Donald Trump’s campaign waited nearly a month before challenging a directive allowing Montana counties to conduct the November election mostly by mail, Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday in asking a federal judge to reject the campaign’s request to shorten the time the state has to file its response.
Bullock issued the directive on Aug. 6 after county election officials asked for a vote-by-mail option for the general election, as was available in the June primary election due to the coronavirus pandemic. At least 44 of the state’s 56 counties plan to hold the November election primarily by mail, with options for early and in-person voting. Counties had until Friday to notify the Secretary of State’s office of their plans.
The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Montana Republican State Central Committee asked a court on Sept. 2 to block the governor’s directive, alleging, without evidence, that an all-mail ballot would lead to voter fraud.
The next day, the Trump campaign and the Republican organizations asked that that the case move forward quickly to give the parties time to exhaust all avenues of appeal before ballots are mailed on Oct. 9. They asked that the state be given eight days instead of 14 to respond.
“Plaintiffs are not entitled to truncate Governor Bullock’s opportunity to respond to their motion … simply because they chose to wait nearly a month … to take action,” the governor’s chief legal counsel Raph Graybill wrote.
The primary election directive, which was issued six months ago, “resulted in a safe, secure primary election free of fraud,” the state argued.
“Fundamental fairness to the governor, the county election officers preparing for this unprecedented pandemic-era election, and the integrity of that process demand adequate time to respond to this extraordinary request with extraordinary stakes for our republican form of government,” the state argued.