Dean Idstrom wheels a cart full of election ballots

Dean Idstrom wheels a cart loaded with mail-in ballots from the Yellowstone County Courthouse.

BOB ZELLAR/Gazette Staff

HELENA — Montana's secretary of state has joined the chairman of the state Republican party in opposing a mail-in ballot for an expected special election to replace U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke. The GOP chairman has said the move would give Democrats an advantage.

The Senate State Administration Committee voted 6-2 Wednesday in support of a bill that would allow counties to save money by holding a mail-only ballot to fill Zinke's seat if the Republican is confirmed as interior secretary.

Rep. Jeff Essman of Billings, who is the GOP chairman, said a mail-only ballot would give Democrats a long-term strategic advantage in controlling the legislature and statewide elected offices.

Corey Stapleton — the state's chief elections official — said Oregon, Washington and Colorado hold their elections by mail and they're "all-marijuana all-the-time states."

The bill was requested by the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders.

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