January 19, 2011
CONTACT INFORMATION: Terri McCoy, (406) 444-2807
McCulloch Urges Legislature to Approve Bipartisan Vote-By-Mail Legislation;
HB 130 Sponsored by Rep. Pat Ingraham
HELENA, MT - Secretary of State Linda McCulloch has urged the 62nd Montana Legislature to support Vote-By-Mail on the grounds that the comprehensive bipartisan effort will increase voter participation, enhance voter protection and save taxpayer money. House Bill 130, as sponsored by Representative Pat Ingraham, would implement Vote-By-Mail for all local, municipal, state and federal elections.
"Vote-By-Mail elections have been discussed in this legislative body for the past few sessions, and the proponents and opponents have swayed from one side of the aisle to the other," said McCulloch. "One thing that has not swayed has been the public's support."
Public support for mail-ballot elections is evident from the increasing percentage of absentee voters. Forty-seven percent (47%) of Montanans voted absentee in 2010. That's a thirty-two percent (32%) increase from 2000. The statewide statistics shy in comparison to some county turnouts, where absentee voters reached as high as seventy-six percent (76%) in the 2010 November General Election.
"This is not only a bipartisan bill, it is the people of Montana's bill," said Ingraham, a former Sanders County Clerk and Recorder. "Counties have used Vote-By-Mail successfully for more than ten years. It's time to bring the state's elections process full circle."
HB 130 provides voters four ways to vote their mail-ballot in every election:
1) by mail
2) at an official and secure Drop Box
3) in person at the county election office
3) at a Staffed Place of Deposit on Election Day
The legislation applies equally to every county, and would take effect on January 1, 2012.
"Vote-By-Mail will save taxpayers about $2 million each federal election cycle," McCulloch said. "The savings, conveniences and enhanced voter protections should guarantee full bipartisan support."
HB 130 was drafted in cooperation with Secretary of State McCulloch; Election Administrators from Yellowstone, Blaine, Pondera, Missoula, and Gallatin counties; representation on behalf of Montana's Sovereign Tribal Nations; and representatives from various policy groups across Montana including Montana League of Rural Voters, Montana Disability Rights, Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Association of Clerks & Recorders, Forward Montana, and Montana Women Vote.
Former Secretaries of State Mike Cooney and Bob Brown testified on Wednesday in support of the measure.