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Montana GOP leaders seek info on creation of special election panel

Montana GOP leaders seek info on creation of special election panel

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The top two Republicans in the Montana Legislature on Tuesday asked the state's Legislative Services Division to look into the feasibility of creating a special panel to probe the state’s election processes, while holding off on saying whether they’ll ultimately support the proposal from their caucuses.

They also raised the possibility of a special session to address election issues, requesting an estimate of how much that would cost.

Last week, all but a dozen of the state’s 98 GOP legislators signed onto a letter to House Speaker Wylie Galt and Senate President Mark Blasdel, asking them to form a special committee to investigate Montana’s election security. Democrats panned the proposal, with Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour calling it “a political stunt.”

In a letter sent to state lawmakers Tuesday, the two leaders said they are awaiting word from Legislative Services Division on what procedure would have to be followed to create a special committee during the interim.

“While we await their response, we remain available to any lawmaker who wishes to voice concerns about election security or suggest policy proposals to further strengthen Montana’s election integrity laws,” the letter reads.

The leaders’ letter to the Legislative Services Division asks for clarification on the legislative rules that guide the creation of special committees. The House rules call for majority approval in that chamber to designate members, while the Senate rules allow the president to appoint special committees “with the advice of the majority leader and minority leader.”

“If a special session is the only avenue for pursuing the goals outlined in the legislators’ letter, we request an estimate for what the cost to the state would likely be,” the letter states. It asks for a response by Oct. 15.

The letter from GOP lawmakers last week didn’t include any specific proposals, although several legislators leading the effort have advocated for sweeping investigations and statewide audits of the 2020 general election.

The 86 Republican lawmakers requested the creation of a GOP-leaning special select committee that would “conduct hearings about the process and security of Montana elections and propose future changes if needed; including legislation.”

Last year’s election results were certified by then-Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, a Republican, following canvasses and audits of randomly selected precincts in each county, as required under Montana law.

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