Montana GOP Targets WWII Hero in Voter Challenge

Last week, we noted the announcement by the Montana Republican party that it’s challenging the voter registrations of over 6000 voters, mostly in Democratic-leaning counties.

The GOP has presented the move as an effort to combat fraud. For all the challenged voters, says the party, there were discrepancies between the address under which they registered to vote, and a U.S. postal service address database.

But two registered Montana voters, along with the state Democratic party, this morning filed suit with a federal court to stop the challenges, calling the GOP move “a transparent and very likely unsuccessful attempt” to discourage voters from turning out.

It’s already clear that the list of challenged voters includes a good number of people who are hardly prime suspects for voter fraud.

In an opinion piece published yesterday in the Montana Standard, the state’s GOP lieutenant governor, John Bohlinger, noted that one voter who’s being challenged is Frank St. Pierre, a World War II veteran who helped save thousands of Allied troops in Dunkirk, and happened to move across town recently*. Bohlinger called the effort to challenge St. Pierre “an utter disgrace.”

And as we told you earlier today, the list also includes Kevin Furey, a former Democratic state representative who’s an army reserve officer about to deploy to Kuwait. (The GOP has since backed down on that one.)

Also appearing on the list are Matt Gouras of the Associated Press, who has been covering the presidential race in Montana, and Alden Downing, a former reporter for the local NBC affiliate who’s now serving as communications director for GOP gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown. That’s according to Matt Singer, who heads Forward Montana, a progressive activist group based in Missoula that obtained a copy of challenged voters in Missoula county — and appears on it himself. (This afternoon, the group unveiled a website that allows users to search the lists of challenged voters from Missoula and Lewis and Clark counties. Additional counties will be added as the information becomes available, said Singer.)

On Saturday, John Brueggeman, a Republican state legislator, spoke out against the challenges, telling the Great Falls Tribune: “I can’t think we’ll do anything but irreparable harm to our party” with independent voters who may be targeted.

But that same day, the state GOP chair informed a local paper that the voter-challenge party is just getting started. “These counties are the beginning, not the end,” Jake Eaton told the Billings Gazette. “We’re looking at this across the state.”

* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version.

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