President Donald Trumps re-election campaign and three Republican groups have filed a lawsuit against Montana Gov. Steve Bullock over his decision to expand mail-in voting ahead of the November election, labelling the Democrats directive as a “brazen power grab.”
The suit was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Helena, and the complaint identifies the plaintiffs as Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Montana Republican State Central Committee.
The complaint argues that the directive, which gives counties the discretion to expand access to voting by mail and early voting, amounts to a an attempt by Bullock to increase his chances of winning a Senate seat in a tight race.
“The Governors power grab under the cover of COVID-19 is particularly egregious,” the suit states, according to the Independent Record. “The Governor is running for U.S. Senate as a member of the Democratic Party and his race is one of the most competitive in the country. So he is using his current position to force a brand-new election system on Montanans that, according to his own party, will sway the election in his favor. This action cannot stand.”
Bullock dismissed the allegations as baseless.
“Montana has a strong history of voting by mail and it is and has always been safe and secure. This lawsuit is clearly a political stunt,” Bullock said in a statement.
“A bipartisan group of Montana election officials, the vast majority of which are Republican, requested this change because the health and safety of our election judges and voters are on the line,” he added.
In an Aug. 6 statement announcing his directive, Bullock cited guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which noted that in-person voting on a single day carries a higher risk of transmitting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus due to larger crowds and longer waiting times.
“Locally elected officials best understand the voting needs of their communities, and taking this action now ensures they will have the time to make the right decisions for their localities. With this approach we can protect that fundamental right to vote, while easing crowding and pressure on voting on Election Day,” he said in the statement.
The legal challenge comes amid repeated allegations by Trump and others that voting by mail carries a greater risk of election fraud. Opponents of this view frequently point to a lack of evidence for fraud on a large scale.
Attorney General William Barr, in an interview on CNN this week, claimed that a system in which mail-in ballots are distributed widely is “very open to fraud and coercion,” calling it “reckless and dangerous,” and “playing with fire.” Asked about the lack of evidence for “widespread” fraud, Barr argued that this may be because “we havent had the kind of widespread use of mail-in ballots that is being proposed.”