The Billings Outpost

LR-126 aims at last-day registration

By ERIN LORANGER and JAMES A. ROLPH - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

Voters face only two ballot issues this election, and the one getting the most attention is about voting itself.

Since 2006, Montanans have been able to register to vote on the same day they cast their ballots. That would end if voters approve Legislature Referendum 126 on Nov. 4.

A “yes” vote would repeal same-day voter registration. If that happens, citizens who don’t register by 5 p.m. on the Friday before an election won’t be able to vote.

A “no” vote would keep the system as it is.

Sen. Alan Olson, a Republican from Roundup, says he sponsored the referendum because late registrants are distracting election officials and making for long lines at the polls.

“This is to take the burden off of county elections administrators on Election Day,” Olson says. “They get spread very thin by trying to manage everything out in rural areas.”

That sounds right to Rosebud County Clerk and Recorder Geraldine Custer, who runs elections in a rural county with a limited staff. She says moving the registration deadline to the Friday before would help staff keep its Election Day focus on voting.

“It would give us as workers a little more free time to do what we are intended to do and run the polling stations,” she says.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 October 2014 21:37

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Dems aim for gains in Legislature

By MADELYN BECK and MICHAEL WRIGHT - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

From the seat of his combine in the Helena Valley, Republican Senate candidate Joe Dooling talked about why he decided to run for the Legislature.

“I’m just wondering where all the grownups are,” he said.

The 2013 legislative session was marked by a split between conservatives and moderates in the Republican majority, at least one day of banging on tables and more than 70 vetoes from Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat. Dooling said he was frustrated by all of it.

Even so, political scientists Jeffrey Greene, of the University of Montana, and Craig Wilson, of Montana State University Billings, are predicting a more productive session when lawmakers gather in Helena this winter.

Both expect Republicans to maintain control in the state Senate and House of Representatives, but said gains by Democrats and a waning influence of tea party conservatives could lead to more compromise.

“The tea party may have reached its zenith,” Wilson said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 October 2014 21:35

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Jury nullification becomes issue

By JESSICA MAZUR - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

David Herbert estimates his chances of beating incumbent Justice Jim Rice for a spot on the Montana Supreme Court are one in ten, and then he shrugs. No time for discouragement. David W. Herbert has a message to spread.

Herbert, 71, is not your typical Supreme Court candidate. He is a practicing podiatrist and attorney from California who moved to Billings in 2008.

Herbert’s mission is to spread awareness of jury nullification or what he calls “jury independence.”

Jury nullification essentially means a jury could find a person not guilty or guilty of a lesser crime, even if the members believe the evidence proves the defendant committed the crime. As Anthony Johnstone, professor of law at the University of Montana, explained it, it gives jurors the power to interpret the law as well as the facts.

Historically, it occurs when the jury believes the law to be unjust. Johnstone said modern juries might nullify verdicts in marijuana or capital punishment cases.

Herbert would like to see the power of nullification outlined to juries when they are headed in to consider a case.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 October 2014 21:33

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Edwards receives top award

Brad Edwards, a stalwart on the Billings music scene for decades, won the Freeman Lacy Award at the 2014 Magic City Music Awards.

The annual awards show, sponsored by The Billings Outpost, was held before a crowd of about 150 people on Sunday at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. The show included performances by Jessica Lechner, Pablo and the Buddha, Satsang, Treo’s Thursday Night Jazz Jam, Satsang, Wes Urbaniak, Omnithex, Stranded by Choice and Prodiga1.

Proceeds go to a fund for musicians and musical projects in this area.

Mr. Edwards, a frequent winner at the awards show, added his name to the list of winners of the Freeman Lacy Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the music scene in Billings.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 13:19

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