Bennett Will Weaken Integrity of Elections

Christi Jacobsen is a much better choice for integrity and we support her

By Forrest Mandeville and Jeff Essmann

Longtime Democratic legislator from Missoula Bryce Bennett is seeking the full time paid job of Secretary of State this election on a platform of restoring integrity to the office of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer of the state of Montana. As former legislators who served as chairmen of the House State Administration Committee in charge of election related laws, a committee in which Mr. Bennett was a lead Democrat, we write to express our opinion that the record shows otherwise: That Mr. Bennett is a Democrat election hack who has made a consistent effort to undermine the integrity of Montana election laws.

Example one. SB 112, which Mr. Bennett sponsored in the 2019 Session, would have repealed a law that prohibits campaign volunteers from handing out bribes in the form of “alcohol, tobacco, food, drinks, or anything of value” at the polling places of this state. We don’t see how that Bennett idea would have improved election integrity or why he brought it to weaken a law only recently strengthened at his request.

Example two. SB 113 of the 2019 Session would have had the consequence of throwing the residency requirement in Montana election laws, not to mention U.S. citizenship, out the window. Current Montana law requires someone registering to have a Montana driver’s license, or, if they don’t have one, the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number, and alternative identification like a tribal or college identification or a copy of a utility bill demonstrating they at least live in Montana. SB 113 would have allowed anyone presenting the last four digits of a Social Security number (which are easily faked) to avoid the necessity of showing an alternative ID or utility bill. This would permit easier same-day registration fraud by election day voters bussed in from across state lines or by non-resident aliens. No increase in election integrity there!

Example three: We think most Montana voters want their elections to be administered by non-partisan bureaucrats not beholden to any political party. But Mr. Bennett apparently disagrees. He introduced HB 469 in the 2015 session, which would have provided the opportunity for the partisan election of election administrators. This would be a step backwards and is just a bad idea.

For the most part, Mr. Bennett is a run-of-the-mill modern Democrat who opposed efforts to cut taxes on Montana seniors receiving social security benefits SB217, supports higher state spending by voting against setting aside money in a rainy day fund SB261, and opposed  strengthening the law on providing medical care to viable, born alive babies SB354. Oh, and he opposed requiring single mothers receiving food stamps to cooperate with efforts to track down the deadbeat dads who owe child support HB290.

But on the issue of restoring “integrity” to the office of the Secretary of State, our chief election officer, Mr. Bennett will do little but run the plays designed by Washington, DC Democrats and the Democrat National Committee to throw our elections into chaos. Christi Jacobsen is a much better choice for integrity and we support her.

Forrest Mandeville is a Republican state representative from Columbus and Jeff Essmann is a former Republican state senator from Billings.

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