Montana capitol

An effort to call a special session of the Montana Legislature via lawmaker poll failed to gain majority support this week. According to the results compiled by the Montana Secretary of State’s office after the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline, 44 legislators voted for the proposal and 60 voted against it. Forty-five lawmakers did not submit votes.

The proposed session would have focused on whether to create a special legislative committee to investigate election security in Montana. Ten Republican legislators submitted the poll request to Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen last month, with Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Stevensville, and Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, among them. Both have raised concerns about election integrity during the 2020 election in Montana and nationally, and Tschida has continued to level allegations of questionable activity specifically in Missoula County. Manzella, Tschida and others among the poll requesters also attended an August 2021 election security symposium in South Dakota hosted by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, whose attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election have been repeatedly rebuffed or discredited by state officials across the country. 

Tschida and Manzella did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the poll results Wednesday.

Lawmakers had one month to return their votes in the poll. Of the 99 members in the state House polled, 36 voted in favor of calling a special session and 38 voted against. Of the state’s 50 Senate members, 8 voted for and 22 voted against. All 44 of the “yes” votes were cast by Republicans.

Asked for comment from the Legislature’s Republican leadership Wednesday, spokesperson Kyle Schmauch wrote, “The final poll results line up with what leadership expected after talking to members of the Senate and House caucuses.”

Rep. David Bedey, R-Hamilton, responded to the poll request last month with an op-ed in which he called the proposed special session a “waste of taxpayer dollars” and reiterated his faith in the security of Montana’s election systems. On Wednesday, Bedey told Montana Free Press the poll results should put the issue to rest.

“Now is the time to get to work on crafting effective, commonsense election security legislation that can be passed when the Legislature convenes in January,” he wrote. “I am part of an unpaid workgroup that is pursuing that goal.”

The workgroup Bedey referenced includes several other state lawmakers, the Montana Association of Counties and the Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders.

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Alex Sakariassen is a 2008 graduate of the University of Montana's School of Journalism, where he worked for four years at the Montana Kaimin student newspaper and cut his journalistic teeth as a paid news intern for the Choteau Acantha for two summers. After obtaining his bachelor's degree in journalism and history, Sakariassen spent nearly 10 years covering environmental issues and state and federal politics for the alternative newsweekly Missoula Independent. He transitioned into freelance journalism following the Indy's abrupt shuttering in September 2018, writing in-depth features, breaking...