TEA Party Republican Legislator Explains His Opposition to Improving Access to Voting

The Billings Gazette reported this week that the bill by Secretary of State Linda McCulloch to allow for statewide voting by mail is advancing with bipartisan support.  But one Republican who voted against the proposal was Derek Skees (R-TEA Whitefish Kalispell).

In the House State Admin committee on January 24, Skees explained his opposition, which is transcribed below:

I’m all about getting out the vote, but I think getting out the vote is an educational component, not a easing down to the least common denominator and allowing everybody who is a procrastinator to vote. To vote is one of our sacred duties in this Republic, and it is something that those of us that consistently do it take it deadly serious.

We’ll make sure that our registration is up to date that our precinct numbers is up to date, and we’ll make sure that the county has our addresses up to date.

We’ll follow the issue, go to every single one of the forums and we’ll vet our candidates and have a really good decision before the primary and before the general elections.

Those are the people who should vote. We should educate everybody to think and behave that way because it is such an august responsibility for us to do it.  All we’re doing is dropping it down to people who vote on one issue, and they are not fully informed on other issues.

And we’re making it easier for the less informed to vote. I would like to improve the less informed, but I think we should do it through education, not by dumbing down the electoral process. With that in mind, I intend to vote against this bill.

Mr. Skees, I hate to break it to you, but uninformed voters are the very folks who put you in office.

Other Republicans who voted against the bill include:  Reps. Gerald Bennett of Libby; Joanne Blyton of Joliet; Dan Kennedy of Laurel; James Knox of Billings (by proxy); and Tom McGillvray of Billings.


42 Comments on "TEA Party Republican Legislator Explains His Opposition to Improving Access to Voting"

  1. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 26, 2011 7:05 AM at 7:05 AM |

    Sorry, I have to agree with the Skeester on this one. We should “educate people to vote”. He’s right, but I would take it one step further. ONLY college educated folks should vote. OOOPS! I forgot. The Skeester never went to college. Never mind. Maybe the Skeester would like to re-think his position on this one.

  2. You know I was saying last spring, why not allow voting on the internet? It would save printing costs, polling place costs, and it might get more young people to vote. Plus most banks and creidit unions in this country already have online banking and so if we can trust the internet with our money, why not our votes?

  3. How did this man get elected. Seriously can anyone tell me how this happened that Whitefish elected someone so far out of the mainstreamM. This was the district that sent us Mike Jopek for Christ’s sake.

  4. What he really means is the Tea Party position that only white men who own property should be able to vote

  5. I oppose HB-130 and commend Rep. Skees for voting against it. HB-130 will kill the jobs of hundreds if not thousands of poll workers. It will not increase turnout (I have the data to prove that). It will not make voting any easier than it is now.

    Furthermore, it exempts school elections, which are the low turnout elections in which switching to a mail ballot does increase turnout. Why this exemption? I suspect that the teachers unions want low turnout school elections because they reckon that they have more influence that way.

    I’ll disagree with Rep. Skees on a great many things, but not on HB-130. He voted to kill a bill than never should have seen the light of day. I commend him for doing so.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 26, 2011 10:52 AM at 10:52 AM |

      “It will not make voting any easier than it is now.”

      The heck it won’t! I ALWAYS vote by mail. Saves me a trip to the polls and wasting time standing in line. Also, when the ballots get real complicated, one can fill them out in the privacy of your own home and take your time and study each issue. It’s a helluva lot easier for me.

      And one more thing. By mail, a person doesn’t have to run the gauntlet of every wacko group out in front of the polling stations on election day. Some of them folks are REAL wierd and nasty. Voting by mail is the only way to go.

      And let’s face it. Just WHO is the Skeester to determine who is a procrastinator and who isn’t?! WHO is the Skeester to determine just who is and who isn’t “educated” enough to vote?! And WHO is the Skeester to beatify himself to holy knowledge of all things political? No one I’d say. The dude’s a joke! The poor little Skeester didn’t even have the moxie to go to college himself! Yet HE’S qualified to say who and who ISN’T qualified to vote? Sorry, but the Skeester has NO right to imply who should and who should not vote in our DEMOCRACY! He’s way outta line! He should maybe go get himself some bonafides before spoutin’ off like a moron!

      Oh wait. He DID say he used to attend toastmasters. That’s kinda like college, isn’t it?? Maybe THAT’S why he considers himself a modern day founding father. He’s toasty! Too funny.

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 26, 2011 11:08 AM at 11:08 AM |

        p.s. Polls indicate that a full forty percent of the people in this country believe in creationism. Me, personally, I would deny the right to vote to ANYone stupid enough to believe in creationism! I’d call it Scope a Dope, as in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Now, would the Skeester agree to my proposal? I would MUCH rather have procrastinators voting than MORONS! I think that that should be the bare minimum intelligence test for the right to vote.

      • The option of voting by mail already exists. HB-130’s aim is to keep people out of the poll and force them to vote at home. Why? Because the clerks and recorders think that will make their jobs easier.

        One reason I vote at the polls is because my vote affects everyone else, and I like to be reminded of that. I think it makes me a more responsible citizen.

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 26, 2011 12:31 PM at 12:31 PM |

          Find a lot of people willing to work the polls do ya? Do YOU yourself work the polls? Well, ONE of the problems is that it is getting harder and harder to find patriotic old farts like us to work the polls. They keep dying. How rude of them. I say give people the option of voting however they want. Sorry, but mail is the easiest. And please speak to the Skeester’s comments about people not being informed. I’d say that anyone voting against their own best interests is DAMNED uninformed and a good teaparty voter, just like the Skeester.

          • People keep retiring, too. There’s no shortage of people to work the polls. There’s just a shortage of clerk and recorders who want to work hard enough to find, hire, and train poll workers.

            • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 26, 2011 3:37 PM at 3:37 PM |

              Yeah right. Self-righteous much? Sorry, Jimmy. You work REAL hard, do ya? Guess that you can criticize these folks then. Ya know, I’ve been lookin’ for that mythical easy job my entire life, but seems that every job I’ve ever had I had to work my ass off! Same with most everyone I know. Guess that that’s why I’m not quick to criticize others. But hey, feel free to fire away at them if it makes ya feel good.

  6. Ballot access laws continue to block emergence of candidates and parties wishing to compete. Independents, for example, election after election, have no party, and no independent candidates to represent them. Montana’s punitive restrictions limit ballot access.
    As long as voters’ choices are eliminated by the two majors, participation won’t improve significantly. SOS know this and is wasting the legislature’s time polishing its image.

  7. Right, Mr. Skees, we should all have to take a “literacy” test and crawl through a barbed-wire obstacle course to vote. How else can we be truly represented?

    With an aging population and long distances between population centers in Montana, mail voting seems like a reasonable option.

  8. I’m with James Conner on this one. We have so damned few civic rituals left in this country (the 4th of July is only about fireworks, right?) that I hate to see the tradition of voting at the polls go away. I used to walk down to Senior High School in Billings with my baby daughter in a backpack and I’d vote with her looking over my shoulder. We knew most of the judges by name and I usually knew at least half a dozen other voters waiting in line. I used to get this feeling of great pride to be part of this crazy democracy of ours, and I thought how great it was that my daughter was learning to be part of it, too.

    It’s sort of like the difference between listening to your iPod alone in a room and going to a concert with hundreds of other people, except that voting is important in and of itself.

    To improve access, Election Day should be a national holiday, or maybe voting should take place over two or three days. And then I’d count every single paper ballot by hand, as they still do in some countries. This would increase the reliability of election results and any challenge would involve paper ballots, not some damned machine open to manipulation.

    And then I’d tell the media to pound sand when they demanded immediate results. I’m sorry, but the democratic process is a lot more important than the media’s “need” to rush into print or on air. I say this is a reporter myself, but I don’t speak for my editor or my colleagues, who would probably want to have me committed.

    • While some of us do enjoy these “civic rituals,” like voting, going to public hearings on city projects and participating in public comment sessions, others may find it overly difficult to go find a parking place at the far side of a crowded lot, limp across to the building, struggle from one end of a cavernous civic center only to be told we’re in the wrong line for our precinct. I don’t believe the bill says we’ll be precluded from voting in person.

      As to the last minute meltdown/naked jaywalking arguement, has this happened in recent history? I can’t think of an example right off the bat that would have changed my vote days before an election.

    • I agree, let’s get rid of Columbus Day and make voting day a national holiday instead.

  9. I might have this confused with another a bill (but aside from the vote by mail issue) wasnt there an issue of the repubs trying to mandate that registration on election day be cut off earlier? That seems to be what Skeesy is talking about.

    I think everyone should have the option of voting by mail (which I believe is the current situation) but I also personally enjoy going to the precinct to vote myself.

  10. As someone said above the only reason Skees and the other tea baggers are in office is because the less informed got out and voted. What they are really trying to do in cutting off late registration is to keep students and the working class from voting.

    • I agree. I oppose HB-130 because I oppose mail ballots and early voting, but I do support provisional ballots and election day registration.

      Regarding the low Democratic turnout, I believe two factors combined to depress the turnout. First, voters in the 18-29 age cohort turned out in much lower numbers than in 2008. This is why non-presidential turnout is always lower (young people are too busy establishing families and careers to have. Second, voters punished the President’s party for the lousy economy (Obama is where Al Smith would have been in 1930). Not having a strong candidate to oppose Rehberg also hurt Democrats.

  11. If you read the bill, you can see that you can still go down to the election office and vote when this bill passes. Those who like the ritual will still have it.

    • Yes, HB-130 does have that provision — but no one should be fooled by it. If HB-130 becomes law, the clerks and recorders will be back in a few years arguing that so few people vote in person that it’s not cost-effective to allow voting in person on election day.

  12. Here is the link that details we’ll still be able to vote as we choose-by mail, at an official and secure drop box, in person at the county election office, at other staffed places on election day: http://www.sos.mt.gov/News/archives/2011/January/011911.asp

  13. Going down to the elections office is not exactly like the ritual of going down to the local precinct on the same day as everyone else. And here’s one thing nobody’s mentioned: With absentee ballots — which have already resulted in 75 percent mail-in balloting — a whole lot of people vote weeks before what used to be called “Election Day.” What happens if some startling news about a candidate — jaywalking in his birthday suit, shooting cats, partying with hookers — surfaces just before the election and most people have already voted? I can’t wait for some of the chickens to come home to roost. Radically changing a damned good system for the sake of “convenience” is not a good idea.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 26, 2011 6:11 PM at 6:11 PM |

      Eddy, you need to get out more, dude. Try spending some time with folks who have difficulty getting around for one reason or another. And then, throw in some inclement weather. Sure, YOU’D probably be able to make it to the polls regardless. But there are a lot of people that aren’t so lucky. Here, how bout next election YOU plan to take three wheelchair bound or handicapped folks to the polls and get back with me. Deal? The weather alone can preclude many from getting to the polls. There is nothing sacred about the ritual you speak of. The important thing is NOT the ritual, but the result. Who really gives a crap if it’s convenient? I find that argument silly. Wastin’ away again in Ludditeville are we????

  14. Radically changing a damned good system for the sake of “convenience” is not a good idea.

    That was so simply beautiful. I think I wanna cry.

  15. I registered to vote on my 18th birthday back in 1999, the same day I had to register with selective service. I have voted in every Presidential election since 2000 and every mid term election since 2002, and two city council elections and three school board elections. Yet in all that time atleast with the mid term elections I have only voted at my polling place once, in November of 2010, and once for a presidential election the June primary of 2000. I have voted either absentee or by mail almost every election since. I love absentee voting it is a blast. You go too the courthouse they give you a ballot you can either take it home and mail it back or return it too the courthouse, or you vote right there in the courthouse. And yes on intitatives and referendums it is the cats meow. Because older people especially sometimes dont understand the wording or what they are voting for or against. So it gives them more time to study those issues. And with Montana having term limits for our state officials most controversial issues are now going to end up before the voters in the intiative and referendum process. In the past few years issues like cyanide leach gold minning, game farms, gay marriage, private property condemnation rights, sales taxes, medical marijuana, outfitter sponsered licenses, abortion ect, ect, ect, have either a been decided by the voters, or b have been petitioned to be before the voters, or c got on the ballot but were not constitutional or legal in the eyes of the state supreme court. So we do need voting to be easy becaues these issues and many more are before the voters.

    • “Because older people especially sometimes dont understand the wording or what they are voting for or against. So it gives them more time to study those issues.”

      Careful, there, sonny. Older people are smarter than you think. One of the things they do is study the issues and ballot before heading to the polls. Some take crib sheets.

      I just study the issues and candidates before voting so that it seldom takes me more than a minute or two to mark my ballot. Of course, I’ve had a bit more practice than you: I first voted in 1968. And I consider voting to be the duty of a responsible citizen, not a blast.

  16. My 77 year old grandmother last year had a hard time understanding the language in 2 out of 3 of the initatives and referendums including an intiative that I had worked on as a signature gather. And no its not just old people for example back in 06 Travis Butcher introduced some initatives that I did not understand, Brad Molanr back in 96 tried to do an initative that was so confussing that due to the wording you did not know if you were voting for it or against it. So in conclusion I believe we should be able to take the ballot home and study it if we want. Thats what Im saying. Also why not allow internet voting, we can bank on the internet, grocery shop on the internet, date on the internet, ect, ect, ect so why not vote? It would save local governments the cost of printing, it would save several trees from being made into paper, plus you would not have to rent building space for a day, have judges on hand for the day, security for the day, ect, ect, ect. Plus when I was gathering signatures on I-161 last spring durning the school board elections, I was outside a polling place that day and let me tell you the judges and myself at times were bored to tears. Plus turnout was dismal, so 3/4 of the ballots just got thrown in the trash. It didn’t make sense to me to do this. Also back in the 1990s Ross Perot tried to get this country to move its voting day to a Saturday instead of the first Tuesday after the first Monday. He wanted to increase turnout back then and not give people an excuss for not voting, yet we still do Tuesday voting, mid week, how is that good for working people?

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 27, 2011 6:33 AM at 6:33 AM |

      Of course you’re absolutley right, Farmboy. Sometimes the initiatives are so poorly worded, one doesn’t know if they’re voting for or against that damn thing. I simply can’t fathom the opposition to this bill. Hey, if you want to continue to walk your ass down to vote, do it. But let the rest of us vote as we want. And really, isn’t that the democratic thing to do? I think it is. Obessing with the ritual of how it’s done is wierd. The REAL goal should be to facilitate the vote! And that’s what I think this bill does. And that has to be a good thing. Or, maybe we should go back to the old days when the votes were taken to D.C. by wagon and it took days to find out who won. Hey, TRADITION!, a sort of Fiddler on the Roof voting system! Quaint, but stupid.

    • The state publishes a voters guide that one can study before voting. Sample ballots are available from a number of sources. There’s no reason, nor is there any of excuse, to enter a polling place ignorant of the issues or candidates.

      I agree that school elections are boring, and that turnout is poor. This is the kind of election in which balloting by mail increases turnout — but HB-130 exempts school elections! Why? Because some people obviously think it is to their advantage to keep turnout low. Who are these people? Probably the public employees unions.

      • I agree with Larry our voting system is out of date and people should be able to chose how they want to vote. I agree with you James the voting guides and the sample ballots are great tools, but they are not the complete answer either. Also I agree with you James that maybe public employee unions do have some advantage to having low turnout in school elections, but I think given that the public employee unions are in the minority at the state legislature these days, and would never team up with Derek Skees, I believe the Christian right is wanting a low turn out, so they can get their people on local school boards and get rid of things like sex education, or science based earth creation, or evolution in the classroom. Also the Republicans want them because then they would have a base for future state elections, and money would flow into the MTSBA and then they can fight the unions and get rid of things like unemployment benifits to domestic violence victims. Its all connected somehow. The teabaggers and the pubbies are not just looking at today they are looking for control of this state for the next 10yrs. Redistricting, school boards, the legislature, the governors office, and who knows what else.

  17. If everyone goes to the polls, the chance of fraudulent ballots is very minimal.

    With mail ballots, you will have tens of thousands of ballots laying around in cars, on tables, in the trash, etc…..for weeks.

    It is a certainty that some of those ballots will be returned in a fraudulent manner.

    How can we allow such a system?

    • How do you know that your ballot is accurately counted? Do you know for a fact that that electronic voting machine is reading your ballot and that it’s hooked up to some device with memory in it? Do you know that no one can access or change what is electronically read? Do you know that the box is even plugged in or if it is an electronic voting machine or–HA–a food processor?

      If you elect a good, honest, capable Clerk and Recorder, and he/she supervises the vote count and recording, it shouldn’t matter if you vote from your local polling place or from Afghanistan.

  18. There is an old say “there’s only two ways to vote, early and often”. In Chicago back in the old days they had dead people voting, in New York back in the old days they had Tammany hall, and back in 2000 in Florida they had Jeb Bush and the supreme court helping brother GW get elected. So yes there have been and always will be questions on the fairness and accuracy of voting. But in general I believe America has the most fair and accurate counting systems in the world. Our elections are 95% fair, now granted there are things that I’d like to see to make it more fair, like public funding for candidates, or getting rid of corporate citizenship when it comes to election funding, but in general when it comes to the counting of the ballots, it is a fair system.

  19. HB-130 died on the floor today. No matter how you want to spin this, the bill was not about improving access to voting. It had too many opportunities to fraud. The Legislators made a good vote by not passinf this one.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 28, 2011 7:56 PM at 7:56 PM |

      Fraud my ass. It was a good bill. We KNOW why it didn’t pass. The Pubbies can’t stand democracy! Hell, the Skeester said as much. Poor little moron doesn’t think everyone should have the right to vote.

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 28, 2011 8:16 PM at 8:16 PM |

        p.s. How BOUT that racism???! Geez, these Pubbies are lettin’ their little light shine, their RACIST light! Why’d they have to go and strip the Indian provision from the bill, thereby angering the Native American legislators to the point that they were so offended that they had to comment on the “hate” coming from the Pubbies? Gee, I’ll bet the Skeester is just SO proud of his Confederidiot flag now! These dudes are outting themselves, and that’s a good thing. They’ll all be one-termers. Then, we can get the state back on track a la shades of Judy Mars! Yes, they’re that bad!

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | January 28, 2011 8:21 PM at 8:21 PM |

          Anyone seen out wussified press in all this? Where’s Moseman of the GF Spitoon? Hiding under his desk again?? How bout it, Adams? (we know you read this) Is there ANYone with a semblance of balls over there by the river?? Didn’t think so. Sad, so sad. For you see, YOU dudes live here too! That is of course unless your escape route leads back to Wisconsin!

  20. How much money did Renberg’s guys spread around today?

  21. If people are not registered by election day then they probably had no intention of voting. The only reason people want this is to be able to get some candidates more votes. Most voters who are not informed on the issues should be getting more information before they vote and not just voting because a candidate needs more votes.

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