Steve Lavin, Montana Legislator, Didn't Mean To Give Corporations The Right To Vote

A bill that would have given corporations the right to vote in local elections in Montana was simply an oversight, according to the Republican state legislator who filed it. The bill died in a legislative committee on Thursday.

State Rep. Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell) told The Huffington Post that he introduced the voting reform bill thinking it would grant non-resident property owners the ability to vote in local elections. He said he did not realize the impact of Section 2 of the bill, which gave corporations, firms and partnerships the right to vote in local elections in towns where they own property.

"I made a mistake of not paying enough attention to this bill," Lavin said. "It came through with that in there. This kind of surprised me in a way. I would have liked to amend that out of there."

Lavin said he introduced the bill at the request of a local constituent, a common practice in Montana. He said that while he had read the legislation, he did not know enough about election law to realize the impact of Section 2 and did not reach out to the legislature's election policy expert to review the bill before filing it.

"I did not pay quite enough attention," Lavin said. "My experience is public safety. That's the kind of bills I carry."

After it was brought to his attention that he was proposing to give corporations the right to vote, Lavin said he wanted to strike that section from the legislation. But the House did not have time to handle an amendment to his bill in committee and the committee did not want to let the Senate handle the amendment process.

Lavin stressed that he does not believe corporations should have the right to vote, but said he still supports the portion of the bill that would allow non-resident property owners to vote in local elections where they own property. He said since the local government assesses taxes, the change would allow property owners the ability to have a say in who taxes them.

Lavin doesn't know yet if he will reintroduce a version of the bill in the future.

"I'm not sure -- I'd have to think about it next time," he said. "I have to do more research."

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