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Most mail ballots arrive on time in Montana, so deadline change isn't necessary, state argues in trial
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Most mail ballots arrive on time in Montana, so deadline change isn't necessary, state argues in trial

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Few ballots arrive late in Montana, making an extension of the deadline for mail ballots unnecessary, attorneys for the state suggested in trial on Monday.

In the 2018 general election, just 385 ballots out of 372,400 arrived too late to be counted, according to data from the Montana Secretary of State’s office.

Plaintiffs in the trial say that’s an undercount.

Trial in Yellowstone County District Court entered its fourth day on Monday, and is set to conclude on Tuesday.

Democrats in Montana are asking a judge to find unconstitutional the state’s longstanding 8 p.m. deadline on Election Day for most absentee ballots to be received.

They’re advocating instead for a deadline by which ballots must be postmarked.

The case was brought by the Montana Democratic Party, its chair Robyn Driscoll and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton is the defendant.

The Democrats are challenging not just the Election Day deadline, but also a deadline of 5 p.m. the day afterward for voters to fix errors, such as a missing signature on their ballot envelope, or a signature that doesn’t match the one on file.

They’re also challenging the Ballot Interference Prevention Act, which voters passed in 2018 to limit the practice of giving completed ballots to others for return to the elections office.

The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew Gordon, of Perkins Coie LLP, an international law firm also representing Democrats in similar legal battles in other states. Helena attorney Mike Meloy is also on the case.

The state is represented by Assistant Attorneys General Aislinn Brown, Hannah Tokerud and Stuart Segrest.

District Judge Donald Harris is hearing the case. 

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