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Final effort fails to block Montana's mailed ballots
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Final effort fails to block Montana's mailed ballots

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HELENA — A final effort to block most Montana counties from mailing general election ballots to active voters was denied Thursday, a day before the ballots are to be mailed.

Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan rejected a request for an emergency injunction filed by Republican state House candidate Joe Lamm of Livingston, the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee and Republican voters.

They wanted to block a Sept. 30 ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen that upheld a decision by Gov. Steve Bullock to give counties the option to hold the Nov. 3 election mostly by mail due to the pandemic.

Forty-five of Montana's 56 counties decided to do so. People also can vote in person early and on Election Day in all counties.

Lamm argued that Bullock overstepped his authority. Bullock said he had the authority, under the emergency declaration made for the pandemic, to suspend a state law that says regularly scheduled federal elections cannot be conducted by mail ballot.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied a request for a similar emergency order to block Christensen's order, pending appeal. The court said it would still hear the appeal and set a schedule for filing briefs starting in January,

Attorney Emily Jones of Billings, who is representing Lamm, did not answer a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

The re-election campaign of President Donald Trump and several Republican Party groups also challenged Bullock's suspension of the state election law but have not not separately appealed Christensen's ruling.

Trump's campaign argued a mail ballot would be subject to widespread voter fraud. Christensen said the plaintiffs could not offer any evidence of voter fraud in Montana in the past 20 years and that the June primary had been held via mail without any reported fraud.

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