I am a peculiar voter. I refuse to vote for anyone who I don’t believe has earned my vote. I view campaigns as job interviews. If a candidate doesn’t impress me with his or her knowledge and experience, then they don’t get my vote. I know some folks think not voting in a race is the equivalent of “voting for the other guy,” but I don’t buy that. I take my vote personally, and I don’t just give it away to anyone just for the sake of voting. It is becoming more challenging to determine the principles each candidate embodies and supports. Millions of dollars are being spent by out-of-state political action groups in little ol’ Montana to persuade us to vote one way or another. Thank goodness Montanans are keen identifiers of baloney when we see it.
The way we vote is changing too. I have been voting absentee for years because I like to deliberate over my choices. I sit with my ballot, read the voter handbook, and debate with family and friends about the issues covered by each ballot. And I like the privacy of voting in my own home. I have many friends who enjoy in-person voting. It is the exercise of voting — of standing in line, of greeting the election staff, of walking to the booth, and leaving with an “I’ve voted” sticker — that makes voting meaningful to them. COVID-19 has now brought us a third option of mail voting. Nationwide mail-in voting is problematic. But local control, at least for us Republicans, is important. As with most issues, we must perform a risk analysis, weighing the value of mail-in voting during a time when minimal human contact is encouraged against the potential for voter fraud in a state of our population. Initially, our county commissioners continued to support in-person and absentee voting. However, as the pandemic’s impact increased, the commissioners decided all mail-in voting is necessary. I agree with the decision. Selfishly, I prefer mail-in voting in Flathead County because Republican-leaning voter turnout increased when it occurred during the primary.
The state Republican Party’s decision to sue the governor over allowing mail-in voting is perplexing. The governor left the decision ultimately to the local county authorities to determine the voting venue best for its residents, considering the challenges each community faces during the pandemic. Thirteen counties that don’t have big COVID numbers have chosen in-person voting. The other 43 have not. This is why local control matters in all issues of government, including voting. The state Republican Party should have consulted the local data and party principles before embarking in litigation that undermines local control and increased Republican-leaning voter turnout.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.