WASHINGTON D.C. — Republicans in the Montana state Senate are attempting to sneak through absentee ballot collection restrictions that already failed when previously proposed in the Legislature two weeks ago. House Bill 406, which failed to pass the state Senate in early April, would have limited who was allowed to return absentee ballots in an attempt to restrict community ballot collection efforts that disproportionately help senior, disabled and Native voters who cannot easily access their polling location. This week, Republicans attempted once again to pass these limitations, adding an amendment to the previously uncontroversial House Bill 530 that would ban anyone who receives a “pecuniary benefit,” or a financial advantage, from returning a voter’s ballot from doing so.
Democrats in the Montana Legislature argue that the term “pecuniary benefit” is purposefully vague and, as it is not defined in the amendment, could be enforced broadly to make it harder for large swaths of voters to return their ballots. In-home caretakers or aides in nursing homes, for example, could be defined as receiving a benefit for helping seniors return their ballots under this provision.
The amended H.B. 530 passed the state Senate on a party line vote. It now returns with the added amendment to the state House for reconsideration.