A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

Archives Index, 2017 May 1–15


15 May 2017 — 0742 mdt

Flathead Dem dinner was 400% as expensive as a 1970 DFL bean feed

In October, 1970, Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer-Labor Party held a big dinner — a DFL Bean Feed, to use the party’s lingo; and yes, beans were on the menu — at the Minneapolis Armory. Former Peace Corp director Sargent Shriver was the headline speaker. The featured politicians were former U.S. Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, running again for the senate, and Wendell Anderson, running for governor. Both won their elections.

The price of a ticket? Two dollars. Adjusted for inflation, approximately twelve 2017 dollars.


Two days ago, Flathead County’s Democratic Party held its big spring dinner at the Hilton in Kalispell. Sen. Jon Tester and congressional candidate Rob Quist were the featured speaker. It wasn’t a paper plate and Campbell’s Pork ‘n Beans affair like the DFL bean feeds I remember. Tickets were $45 at least three days in advance. Nevertheless, the dinner sold out. Financially, it was a resounding success.

But socially and politically, it was another example of how far Democrats have moved from the poor and middle class voters they used to represent. Forty-five-dollar tickets to the party’s major dinners are beyond the means of the party’s Widow Murphys, who live on triple-digit Social Security payments, and who volunteer for hours stuffing envelopes and making telephone calls.

A burgers, beans, and beer, bash at a union hall for $15 a head would be a lot more affordable for low earning working people and for impoverished seniors. It might be an unsettling experience, an exercise in slumming, for the snooty Clintonites who still control the Democratic Party, but for some of us it would be a return to the party’s roots and the road to winning elections again.



14 May 2017 — 1926 mdt

Kalispell Quist rally draws overflow crowd

Yesterday afternoon, an overflow crowd of at least 100–125 Democrats, assembled in Kalispell’s picturesque Central School Museum to hear Sen. Jon Tester lead a rally for congressional candidate Rob Quist. The rally was followed by a sold-out Flathead Democratic dinner at the Hilton.

Below, a few images from the rally.


Quist addresses the crowd, which spilled into the hallway and an adjoining meeting room.

…read the rest


14 May 2017 — 1904 mdt

Three Lee newspapers endorse Gianforte

Today the Billings Gazette, Missoulian, and Helena Independent Record, three of the four major Lee Enterprises newspapers in Montana, endorsed Greg Gianforte for Congress. This is no surprise given Lee’s reputation for unbridled greed.

None of the newspapers was crass or honest enough to write an endorsement editorial that said “We’re endorsing Greg Gianforte because he’s the best bet for our corporate masters to make more money.” Instead, each editorial writer strung together a list of weak arguments before concluding, in the manner of a sad but wise parent, that Gianforte is the lesser evil.

But, I believe, the endorsements were made fundamentally because Lee wants Montana represented in the U.S. House by another Republican. That provides the highest odds that Congress will pass, and President Trump will sign, legislation lowering taxes on businesses and the wealthy. And that’s why the Gazette’s high command had Tom Lutey writing stories presenting Rob Quist in an unfavorable light.

At Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba examines the arguments in the editorials, and Pete Talbot reports on the increasing concentration of right wing news media in Montana.



14 May 2017 — 1807 mdt

Real estate law expert sets record straight on Quist’s barn

Guest post by Rich deJana, Esq

As a lawyer who practices property rights and real estate law in Kalispell, I was shocked to read a “Billings Gazette” article that overtly implies wrongdoing by a Flathead County resident who actually did nothing wrong.

It didn’t take me long to realize the reporter, Tom Lutey, doesn’t understand property rights and taxation law, in fact, even the headline was incorrect. Let’s start there.

That headline, “Quist has ties to rental property not listed on state tax rolls,” is patently false. This accusation has every property rights lawyer in the state laughing. The Quist property is on the tax rolls. MDOR has assessed it as rural residential (not commercial). The current MDOR classification AAB2 accurately identifies the barn as a residential structure in fair condition. Yet the article goes on to imply that because the structure is technically described by MDOR as a “Standard Barn” the Quists are committing some sort of wrongdoing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

…read the rest


13 May 2017 — 0801 mdt

Montana special election voter turnout updates

How long does it take the U.S. Postal Service to carry mail ballots from Whitefish to Kalispell? In one case, at least a week, perhaps longer. Last night, a friend in Whitefish reported he had mailed his ballot on 5 May, and it still wasn’t listed in the Montana Secretary of State’s online database of accepted mail ballots. Another friend who lives ten miles east of Kalispell, near the Swan Range, also mailed his ballot on 5 May. It was received by the Flathead County Elections Department on 11 May.

Six days to travel ten miles. One-hundred-forty-four hours to travel 52,800 crow flying feet. How fast is that? It’s 1.22 inches per second. One mile per hour is 17.6 inches per second. Try walking that slowly. It’s not easy, but we know it can be done because that’s how fast the postman is carrying ballots from east of Creston to Kalispell.

Most mail ballots are entrusted to the U.S. Slowpoke Service twice. Once from the elections department to the voter, once from the voter to the elections department. Now I know why ballots are mailed out 30 days in advance of the election’s close.

And that’s why I’ll vote in person on 25 May. The elections department worker hands me my ballot directly. After mark my ballot in a privacy booth, I’ll walk, at approximately 50 inches per second, to the ballot counting machine, insert my ballot into the machine, receive the message that my ballot has been accepted, and head home knowing that neither rain nor snow nor a snail-paced letter carrier kept my ballot from being cast before the polls closed.

Almost 23 percent of Montana’s registered voters have cast their ballots already. In the 2016 Montana primary, 45.2 percent of the registered voters, and 26.7 percent of the voting eligible population, cast ballots. In the 8 June 1993 special sales tax election, the turnout of registered voters was 69.2 percent; VEP turnout was 50.6 percent.

Here are the county-by-county turnout figures through 11 May, followed by the absentee ballot return rate through the same date.

Bernie Sanders will campaign in Montana next weekend. According to Rob Quist’s campaign, Sanders will hold rallies in Missoula, Butte, and Bozeman, on Saturday, 20 May, and in Billings on Sunday, 21 May. Quist’s campaign says the events are open to all, but they want you to RSVP. There’s no charge for attending, but RSVPing surely will generate a plea for dollars, and the campaign just might check your name against a list of known Republicans.

Also, “Press credentials will be required for all media to attend.” That’s how Republican and right wing media trackers will be excluded from the rally.

Sanders is appearing late in the game for a 30-day stretch of voting, but his presence should pep up Quist’s GOTV operation, and might get the favorable attention of fence straddlers who increasingly doubt the wisdom of sending Greg Gianforte to cheer, and vote, for the Trump-Ryan bills to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

Flathead Democrats big dinner is tonight. You can buy tickets at the door — and once inside, bid on the Quist cowboy hat that’s being silently auctioned off. Sen. Jon Tester is the headline speaker.

Kalispell Women’s Event with Bonni and Halladay Quist runs from 1300 to 1430 today. Bonnie is Rob’s wife. Halladay is his daughter.



11 May 2017 — 0733 mdt

Flathead has lowest absentee ballot return rate in Montana

Updated 14 May. Montana’s absentee voters had by 9 May returned 33.7 percent of the 346,916 absentee ballots sent out thus far in the special congressional election than ends on 25 May. Teton County, at 48.8 percent, had the highest rate of return, while at 11.9 percent Flathead County had the lowest — and the lowest by far. The next lowest, Missoula County, had a return rate almost ten percent higher. The Flathead’s return rate is so low that it could be a data reporting anomaly, but for now I accept the Montana Secretary of State’s numbers as accurate.

…read the rest


10 May 2017 — 1216 mdt

Blame the Gazette’s high command, not Lutey

Yesterday, the Billings Gazette published another story on Rob Quist’s finances. Citing the newspaper’s 24 March interview with Lutey, and written by political reporter Tom Lutey, the story alleged Quist is connected to a rental property that is improperly taxed.

Writing on his personal Facebook page, Missoula County Treasurer Tyler Gernant, an attorney and Democrat, took issue with the story, but focused his ire on Lutey.

I’m unclear what the story here is. Bonnie Quist acted as Power of Attorney for her daughter and collected rent on her behalf, something that I helped numerous clients do when I was practicing law. The Department of Revenue does not tax the property correctly, something which I deal with routinely in my role as County Treasurer. So in other words, a totally normal sequence of events occurs but Tom Lutey feels the need to write an ominous story about it. This is awful reporting on so many levels that I can’t even begin to comment.

Gernant, and the rest of Lutey’s critics, should focus their ire not on the Gazette’s reporter but on the newspaper’s high command. Adverse stories can have far more impact on the outcome of the election than any editorial page support for a candidate. The people Lutey works for are the ones who ultimately are responsible for the tone, content, and timing of his stories on Quist’s finances.



10 May 2017 — 0653 mdt

Tester & Quist headline big Democratic dinner in Kalispell Saturday


Sen. Jon Tester and Democratic candidate for Congress Rob Quist will speak at the Flathead Democratic Party’s big spring dinner and fundraiser at the Kalispell Hilton on Saturday, 13 May. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at www.flatheaddemocrats.com or by mail or at the door.

Luke Walrath and Betsi Morrison will provide entertainment.

The hat may or may not be passed, but participants in the silent auction will be able to bid on one of Quist’s big cowboy hats from the campaign trail.

For more information, call Terri at 406-730-2741 or visit the Flathead Democratic Party’s website.



9 May 2017 — 1146 mdt

Them polls, them polls, them damn polls —
They still show Greg’s leading Rob

A month ago, a Gravis poll reported Greg Gianforte was leading Rob Quist by 12 percentage points. Last Thursday, the day the U.S. House voted to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, another Gravis poll reported Gianforte’s lead had shrunk to seven points. Gianforte has dropped below 50 percent, and undecideds have increased, but Quist is holding steady at slightly below 40 percent.

…read the rest


8 May 2017 — 1559 mdt

Guest post by Mary Moe — Why I voted for Rob Quist


By Mary Moe

I have known Rob Quist since I was in college, where his wife and I were good friends. But that’s not why I voted for him.

I have watched Rob evolve as a musician – from a talented Jubileer at the U of M to a guitarist/singer in the popular Mission Mountain Wood Band to the respected singer/songwriter/player of many instruments that he is today. But that’s not why I voted for him.

I have observed Rob raise two great kids but care for many more, and struggle with his health and finances but contribute his time and talent over and over again to many Montana causes. But that’s not why I voted for him.

Over the course of nearly half a century, I’ve known Rob Quist to be a man of heart. Year after year, decade after decade, he has shown himself to be unfailingly kind to, concerned about, and truly interested in everyone he encounters. Because he cares about people, he respects varied points of view, understands that the experiences of Montanans are as varied as Montana’s landscape, and has spent his adult life trying to hear, understand, and express those perspectives and experiences in ways that will make all our lives better.

Year after year, decade after decade, Rob has shown the deep love he has for the land we call Montana, the science and history and art that have shaped it, and the people who rely on it, not just for a livelihood, but for a way of life that goes deeper than economics or even recreation, a way of being that becomes core to who you are.

I want an individual with that kind of heart representing me and you at a time when truly caring about the human agenda and being candid about what your part in that agenda really is have never been more important. That’s why I voted for Rob Quist. I hope you will too.

Moe is a former State Senator from Great Falls. Flathead Memo is honored to publish her essay explaining why she voted for Rob Quist.



8 May 2017 — 1149 mdt

Notes on the special congressional election

Another poll confirms that the Quist-Gianforte gap is narrowing. A Garin-Hart-Yang poll conducted 25–27 April for the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, found Republican Greg Gianforte leading Democrat Rob Quist by six points, 44 to 38 percent, among midterm voters who said they will vote in the 25 May special congressional election in Montana.

The sampling margin of error for GHY’s 601-person sample is four percent. The probability that Gianforte is leading is 93 percent.

Among “enthusiastic” voters, Gianforte’s lead was just one point. If I were trying to raise money or pep up volunteers, I would cite the enthusiastic number. But because 95 percent of the voters polled said they intended to vote, and an unenthusiastic vote counts just as much as an enthusiastic vote, I’m going with the 44–38 percent margin.

The GHY one-pager contains cherry picked data arranged to present the best case for Quist. It’s partly propaganda, so curb your enthusiasm.

New DCCC anti-Gianforte ad is an exercise in political blackjacking. If Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte were a refugee from Syria, the Montana and National Democratic Parties would welcome him to Montana with open arms. But because he’s an American who once lived in New Jersey, and who earned hundreds of millions of dollars in Montana, the DCCC’s message makers consider him a form of life lower than the beheaders of ISIS. Here’s the DCCC’s latest effort to pull politics deeper into the gutter:

Don’t send the DCCC any money. It doesn’t know how to spend it wisely.



8 May 2017 — 0847 mdt

Flathead Electric rate increases for 2010–2017 run ahead of inflation

My bill from the Flathead Electric Cooperative arrived in my email traffic over the weekend, together with a not unexpected, but still not welcome, announcement that residential rates are going up.

FEC’s residential rates increase annually by a few percent. Each increase seems small in isolation, but over time they add up. The table below displays the rates for 2010 through 2017, both in current dollars and 2017 dollars. For the multi-year period, the price is increasing faster than inflation.

…read the rest


7 May 2017 — 0754 mdt

Flathead Memo is standing down today

The time usually allocated to writing is being temporarily re-allocated to mowing the green, green, and all too tall, grass of my lawn. Back to blogging tomorrow.


6 May 2017 — 0732 mdt

Quist-Gianforte polling gap down to single digits

Two weeks ago, an Emerson College poll reported Republican Greg Gianforte was leading Democrat Rob Quist by 15 points, 52–37 percent. Yesterday, in a story on Gianforte’s two-faced statements on his support for the Trump-Ryan health care sabotage bill, the New York Times reported the race had tightened:

Polling by both parties has indicated that Mr. Gianforte is leading in the race, but only narrowly, which the Republican acknowledged on the call.

“We’re in a single-digit race,” he said, adding that the left would relish the symbolic importance of snatching a Republican-held House seat. “The Democrats would like nothing more than to put one up on the board and take this away from us to stop the Trump Train and block tax reform and block the regulations we’ll be able to peel back.”

Quist, against heavy odds, is on the move. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence, and prairie dog assassin Donald Trump, Jr., are headed for Montana to stump for Gianforte.

Gianforte’s old hunting mistake is not a BFD

Seventeen years ago, Greg Gianforte was fined $70 for illegally killing an elk in Park County.

“Greg was out hunting and spotted a handful of elk in a timber area,” Gianforte spokesman Shane Scanlon said. “After observing an elk he believed it had brow tines and he shot it. Unfortunately upon approaching he had mistaken tree branches for brow tines.

“Knowing that this was a violation of local hunting rules, he tagged it, field-dressed it, left it in place and immediately traveled to an area in cell service and reported the downed elk.”

Gianforte’s critics should not succumb to the temptation to accuse him of poaching or a cover-up. His experience was nothing more than an embarrassing bout of buck fever. There’s no legitimate tie-in to the election.

Candidates never learn that excess candor with donors costs votes

Remarks made privately to fat cat donors always leak — and political candidates never seem to learn from the misfortunes of other politicians.

  • Mitt Romney was surreptitiously video recorded telling a room full of high roller that 47 percent of Americans are tax avoiding bums who mooch off the makers.

  • Hillary Clinton was video recorded telling high dollar donors at a fundraiser that members of the white working class were deplorable homophobes and racists.

Both lost, and both lost partly because they said stupid things in a effort to elicit a substantial campaign contribution.

If Gianforte loses this election, he’ll lose it at least in part because of his conflicting statements on the Trump-Ryan health care sabotage bill. Voters don’t like being lied to — at least not so egregiously.

Can Quist exploit Gianforte’s health care blunder?

Yes — but only, I suspect, if hospital executives and board members, who generally are horrified by Trump-Ryan’s gutting of Medicare, stand up and endorse Quist. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. In Montana, most of those people are Republicans, and lack the wisdom and courage to take a stand in public.

Don’t watch or listen to political ads

Change the channel or radio station, or turn off your television or radio. You’ll learn nothing useful from a 30-second ad. The same goes for printed propaganda that candidates and meddlesome third parties inflict on voters. Rip the cards and brochures to shreds and set them on fire.



5 May 2017 — 0956 mdt

Democrats want to make a deal, Republicans want to make a point

Last night, I rebuked Sen. Jon Tester for what I consider his excessively enthusiastic devotion to reaching across the aisle in search of compromise, which he seems to regard as an intrinsic rather than an instrumental good. Such gestures, I opined, would be greeted not with a handclasp but with a refusal to make common cause. That observation put me at odds with some Democrats and fellow bloggers.

Their pushback provides an opportunity to recommend Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, by Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins (Oxford University Press, 7 September 2016). Here are a few excerpts:

…read the rest


4 May 2017 — 1948 mdt

Is Jon Tester going rogue on the Affordable Care Act?

He might, reports The Hill:

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Thursday that he is open to repealing and replacing ObamaCare even as his party’s leadership demands that Republicans drop their effort to nix President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Tester’s spokesman, Luke Jackson, said the senator does not support the bill just passed by the U.S. House.

But Tester clearly wants voters to think he’ll reach across the aisle and take the extra step to reach a compromise because, well, Democrats think compromise is intrinsically meritorious and that making a deal, even a bad deal or a dumb deal, is blessed by Heaven because it feels so good to make a noble sacrifice. Which is to say, Tester is trying to appear reasonable.

After today’s health care vote in the U.S. House, it should be clear that anyone who believes Democrats can cut acceptable deals with Donald Trump and Paul Ryan is delusional. It’s time for Democrats — and that includes Tester — to lay down their olive branches and pick up their swords and shields. It’s time to fight.



4 May 2017 — 1422 mdt

Quist rips U.S. House’s approval of Trump-Ryan ACA repeal bill


A couple of hours ago, the Republicans in U.S. House voted 217–213 to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and replace it with a stingy system that the rich will love and the poor will recognize as closely akin to the status quo ante. Twenty Republicans voted against the bill. No Democrat voted for it.

Following the vote, Rob Quist, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in the 25 May special election to replace Ryan Zinke, issued the following statement:

The House of Representatives today passed a bill that would kick thousands of hardworking Montanans off of their health insurance and raise premiums by hundreds of dollars a month. This bill ends protections for people with preexisting conditions and would force older Americans to pay even more. The list goes on.

I oppose this bill because it would hurt the people of Montana and hardworking families across the state. No real Montanan would vote for it.

This is exactly why we need an independent voice standing up for Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives.

We know where my opponent stands. Greg Gianforte stands with the special-interest authors of this bill – they’re the ones bankrolling his campaign. And he’s standing with millionaires like himself, who get a massive tax cut from the bill while the rest of us are left paying more for health care.

He’s standing with politicians who want to get in between women and their doctors. He’s all for defunding Planned Parenthood – which this bill does.

And he’s standing with a Washington, D.C. Super PAC that has spent an astonishing $2 million to attack me on his behalf.

Montana deserves a Congressman who will speak out when special interests are rushing through something as disastrous as this bill, which will raise health care costs for hardworking Montanans.

In the House of Representatives I will fight for you, not the special interests.

No decent human being would vote for such a bill, either. But Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte would — which is why it’s in the enlightened self-interest of decent Montanans to vote for Rob Quist.



4 May 2017 — 1126 mdt

Why is Quist talking about Gianforte’s Russian investments when the
U.S. House is ready to pass the meanest health care bill in history?

Quist should be talking about health care today — and only about health care. Yet, his campaign is issuing press handouts flogging the dead horse of Greg Gianforte’s minor investment in a few Russian companies of dubious character. This is nuts. And it’s how Democrats lose elections.


4 May 2017 — 0716 mdt

Get medical treatment now while you still have health insurance

If you’ve been putting off elective surgery, schedule it now, while you still have health insurance. The U.S. House is voting today on the latest iteration of the Ryan-Trump bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The repealer is a Devil’s Christmas tree, festooned with toxic tinsel, radioactive ornaments, policy bombs, and naked bribes. As Kevin Drum notes at Mother Jones, there’s no text, no CBO score, etc:

This is a depraved piece of legislation. It’s a windfall for the rich and promises nothing but misery for the poor. How is it possible that 90 percent of House Republicans are happily voting in favor of this moral abomination?

It’s possible because these legislators don’t give a damn whether poor people live or die. If this bill fails, Trump and Ryan will cobble together another bill, and another, until something, anything, passes. Then the U.S. Senate will be on the spot — and the Senate will pass some kind of repeal bill. If you need a triple-bypass, get it now while you can still pay for it.

$200k cut to CSKT Compact implementation emits unpleasant aroma

Gov. Steve Bullock invested considerable time and political capital to get the CSKT Water Compact approved by the Montana Legislature. The agreement, still awaiting Congressional approval, places certain implementation obligations on Montana, according to DNRC Director John Tubbs. Reports Lee reporter Jayme Fraser:

[Tubbs] said the work … includes flow monitoring of all the streams on the Flathead Reservation so the department will have accurate usage and flow data to support aspects of the CSKT Compact.

But the money to pay for it, a $200,000 appropriation for the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, was removed from the budget last week by a bipartisan committee because it was thought wrongly that it wasn’t needed.

[Bullock’s budget director, Dan] Villa also did not specify where the original idea started and did not answer a question about when it became apparent the proposed cut would jeopardize the Compact Implementation Technical Team. Other members of the conference committee who approved the cut after less than two minutes discussion also echoed Ballance and said they did not know the money paid for anything more than commission meetings.

Tubbs said it was adequately explained when the cut had first been suggested. He said it should have been obvious that the reduction would affect operations simply because the dollar amount was so large. Meetings of the commission were cheap, just a few thousand dollars a year to cover travel and hotel rooms.

This affair has a stinkwater aroma to it. Someone knew what was happening. Therefore, everyone’s “Gee willikers, how did that happen?” means someone is lying.

After investing so much in getting the compact passed, it’s inconceivable that Bullock ignored the need to fund implementation and the obligations to which the compact obligates Montana. Those obligations will be met by messing around with the DNRC’s funding, so the failure to appropriate the $200,000 amounts to a de facto cut to the DNRC’s budget.

Why would Bullock, or Villa acting on Bullock’s behalf, accept that backdoor cut? Most likely to protect a $200,000 pot of money for other purposes. Less likely, but still possible, B & V relaxed their guard, letting Ballance sneak one past them.

Someone needs to step forward with the truth.



3 May 2017 — 1016 mdt

Rob Quist kicks off election month by voting early

Smart political candidates always vote at the earliest possibly moment, making the event a photo opportunity for the local news media. Back in the day, before election day became election month, and photographers used 4x5 Speed Graphics and No. 25 flashbulbs, the event was quite a production. If staged well, the event resulted in a big black and white image of the beaming candidate depositing his ballot in the box being splashed above the fold of the local evening newspaper. Presumably, that incited procrastinators to vote before the polls closed.

Now there are 30 consecutive election days, small digital cameras, and a lot less drama. But the custom of early voting is still observed. Here’s Rob Quist voting in Kalispell yesterday.


To echo J.M. Brown over at The Western Word, if you’re voting by absentee ballot, there’s a good argument for not marking your ballot for at least a couple of weeks given how much is happening with the election.



3 May 2017 — 0952 mdt

Even with a mail ballot, School District 5 turnout was shamefully low

Betty Albright, an incumbent trustee, and Diane Morton Stout, were elected to the board, defeating Rebecca Linden and Scott Plotkin. Just 21.7 percent of the 17,008 ballots were returned. The unofficial results are posted on the school district’s website, and will be ratified at a school board meeting later this month.

No one should be surprised by the shamefully low turnout. The election was non-partisan. There were no issues (such as more football vs. no football). It was simply a contest of competing credentials and promises to work hard and make good decisions.



2 May 2017 — 1017 mdt

Do mail ballots present an identity theft risk?


With considerable reluctance and misgivings, I cast my school election ballot by mail late last week. Normally, I deliver the ballot in person, and thus have given no thought to the implications of having my signature on the outside of the return envelope.

But this year, I had to consider the issue. Placing my signature on the outside of the envelope, in plain sight, puts it as risk of being photographed by a rogue USPS employee using a cell phone or a concealed camera. Because it’s an official signature, it has value to an identity thief.

To reduce the risk, I placed my signed return envelope, my ballot inside in the security envelope, in a plain white envelope and cast my ballot that way. I also enclosed in the plain white wrapper a tart note admonishing the school district for putting signatures at risk.

Don’t believe public officials when they aver mail ballots are secure. They are not, and the postcard privacy level afforded to one’s official signature is an invitation to identity theft.

Are voters required to vote for two candidates, or can they vote for just one? The ballot reads “VOTE FOR TWO.” As far as I know, voting for just one candidate is legal. I therefore think the ballot ought to read “Vote for no more than two candidates.”

I did vote for two, but with misgivings. School trustee elections are nonpartisan. Without knowledge of the would be trustee’s politics, I have no way of ascertaining the candidates values and policy preferences. I try to make an informed choice, but it’s really just a crapshoot. I sometimes wonder if not voting would reduce the odds that the worst candidate might win.

Finally, as long as a mark is within the box, or unambiguously identifies the candidate the voter has selected, the ballot should be counted. Trying to limit voters to an “X” within the box is not consistent with a voter friendly policy, but it’s fully consistent with the anal retentive mindset that one finds in authoritarian institutions such as schools.



1 May 2017 — 0810 mdt

Will the “Tu QuoQue, Gianforte,” strategy
negate attacks on Quist’s personal finances?

Republican attacks ads featuring Democratic candidate Rob Quist’s untidy personal finances are doing considerable damage to Quist. He cannot change his past, but he can argue that Greg Gianforte’s finances are just as untidy, thereby inviting voters to conclude that Quist’s and Gianforte’s sins negate each other. That’s why Quist’s campaign is pushing the preposterous notion that Gianforte’s Russian financial assets make him a security risk and may violate sanctions against Russia.

Gianforte is telling Quist, “Your finances stink,” and Quist is retorting, “Yours don’t smell so sweet, either.” Gianforte is accusing Quist of irresponsibility. Quist is accusing Gianforte of hypocrisy, and hinting that two wrongs make a right.

Politically, this might work. Although the “you’re another” comeback, the tu quoque fallacy, is an argument that’s quickly shredded in formal debates, it can be a powerful response in the real world.

Quist, as noted at Logicosity this morning, is not gaining traction. Time is running out. Absentee ballots are in the mail. Voting begins this week. Praying is not enough. That’s why Quist’s throwing a Hail Mary pass to drag the receiver and defender down in the mud.