In the United States of America today, it is illegal to allow only wealthy property owners to vote. But in 2011, the Republican Flathead County Commissioners did the next best thing, and the case is going to the Montana Supreme Court on April 11.
Flathead County Commissioners sent out a survey to the ‘doughnut’ residents (people who live in a ring around the outer edge of the city of Whitefish) asking who they prefer to manage planning and zoning, the county or city of Whitefish. Instead of mailing surveys to the registered voters in the area in question, they sent the surveys only to corporations and property owners. If you resided in the area, but didn’t make enough to own property, well, you weren’t allowed to voice your opinion.
Over at the Informed Whitefish forum, word is that some sixty surveys went to a single Whitefish address (one for each parcel of land the individual owns in the area) while others expressed outrage that many of the surveys were mailed to out-of-area addresses – including Texas, California, Canada, Switzerland and England.
In fact, some say most of the surveys that the County mailed went to owners who do not live in Whitefish: Forty percent of the survey votes were actually mailed out of Montana. Flathead County surveys our Canadian neighbors to the north 300 times. Texas gets 70 votes, Missoula 60, and California got nearly 160 surveys.
On Friday April 11 at 9:30am, the full Montana Supreme Court will hear and decide the case of the Interlocal Agreement Referendum. The hearing will be held in the George Dennison Theater on the University of Montana campus in Missoula.
Don’t confuse this as a hearing for the ‘doughnut.’ This is about voting rights. The fact that our Supreme Court is hearing this case means they understand the consequences, importance and impact it will have on all of Montana not just Whitefish and Flathead County.
This will be a major media event, and you can tell by the large forum the hearing will be held in that a lot of people are expected to show up. If you don’t live in Missoula, this is an event worth driving a couple of hours to see. Don’t let the angry TEA Party ralliers and corporate astroturf groups like Balyeat’s/Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity take up all the seats of concerned Montanan citizens worried about our voting rights.
If Flathead gets to ignore the votes of renters, will Commissioners in Sweetgrass or Stillwater decide they can throw out any surveys from women and people of color? It’s actually hard to imaging the kind of bad ideas possible when the wrong people are elected. Think of what came out in the 2011 and 2013 legislatures…gold standards, militias, public flogging, secession, etc.
Whitefish is 45 percent renters, Flathead County is 27 percent and Montana is 31 percent.