The Montana Republican Party has dropped a controversial effort to challenge thousands of state voters, after Democrats and some challenged voters filed suit on Monday. The challenges were filed against almost six thousand voters last week after the GOP said it had compared registrations in seven counties against a national change-of-address-form database. Republican officials said it appeared that the individuals had moved and should have their registrations questioned to insure against fraud. But most of the challenged voters lived in Democratic-leaning areas, such as Missoula, leading the Democratic Party to cry foul. The Republicans said those areas were just where they found the most problems, and they also planned to check the rest of the state for more challenges.
But last night, Jacob Eaton, the executive director of the Montana GOP, sent a letter to county election officials saying they would drop the challenges. Eaton cited the perception that the action was meant to intimidate voters, though he maintained that the challenges were filed in good faith.
It didn't help, though, that some of those challenged had perfectly good reasons for filing a change of address form, including one Army reservist on his way to Iraq who said he was having his mail forwarded to his parents' house while he was deployed.