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Bill for ‘permanent’ absentee ballot list goes to committee

Bill for ‘permanent’ absentee ballot list goes to committee

Election Administrator Bret Rutherford

Yellowstone County Election Administrator Bret Rutherford stands in the county election office in November 2015. Rutherford, who wrote the proposed legislation, said he intends to testify for the bill.

A Yellowstone County-led bill to make permanent the absentee voter roster has been referred to a state House committee.

Bret Rutherford, the county’s election administrator, said on Monday that the proposed legislation, House Bill 287, was referred to the House’s State Administration Committee last Friday. A hearing date has not been set.

Rutherford, who wrote the proposed legislation, said he intends to testify for the bill.

“Enough is enough. Let’s get this thing done,” he said.

The draft bill would make the absentee voter list permanent.

Montana law now requires that the absentee voter list be deleted on Feb. 1 in even-numbered years. To continue receiving absentee ballots, voters must ask their elections office to get on the list.

About 90 percent of Yellowstone County voters cast ballots by mail. And about 20 percent of absentee voters fail to return the renewal request because they think they are already on it and they end up getting dropped.

The process causes an “uproar” and angers voters when they don’t get their ballots, Rutherford said.

Sending reminder notices and putting voters back on the absentee list costs the county about $40,000, Rutherford said.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.

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