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Sheehy’s Senate race shows GOP flip-flopped on absentee ballots

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Sheehy’s Senate race shows GOP flip-flopped on absentee ballots

Jun 13, 2024 | 6:03 am ET
By Peter D. Fox
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Sheehy’s Senate race shows GOP flip-flopped on absentee ballots
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A mailer supporting Tim Sheehy who is running for the U.S. Senate in Montana.

It is tempting to use the adjective “shady” to describe the professionally done “Absentee Ballot Application Enclosed for Your Convenience” showing up in Montana mailboxes.

Actually, it’s a suggested way for recipients to cast their votes in Montana’s U.S. Senate election for Tim Sheehy, the candidate endorsed by Sentinel Action Fund, the entity behind the mailer.

A disclaimer on the front of the mailer declares Sentinel paid for the piece “and (it is) not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.” Probably true, but the shading is that in going to the website front-and-center is the endorsement for Sheehy under the heading, “We back conservative champions.”

Prominently featured in his ever-present flight suit to preserve his military mystique, the group announces, “Sentinel Action Fund endorses Tim Sheehy for U.S. Senate in Montana, Launches Seven-Figure GOTV Initiative.” GOTV is short for “Get Out the Vote,” including efforts to register voters, encourage absentee, use early voting when possible or just show up at the polls.

Quite a turnaround from former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election stance that absentee balloting was fraught with fraud – even though he voted by mail ballot himself from Washington to his precinct in Florida. And remember, Montanans have been happily and successfully voting by mail for many years.

But the Republican Party and its conservative funders have found the light – even their presumptive presidential candidate has a new attitude.  Oddly enough, in now promoting vote by mail and absentee voting, no one has said, “Gee, we were wrong about that.”

This mailer is well done with color mimicking the deep blue, red and white that official government messaging often carries, two registration forms, the indicia of the Montana Secretary of State office, and a reply address of the recipients’ county elections office. Having both the household name and address on the mailer and the reply address of the county office is a pricey proposition.

Its physical appearance is meant to snooker recipients as to its source.

On its website – but missing from the mailer – the Sentinel Action Fund professes to be “committed to using our robust election infrastructure and SkipTheLineMT.vote to turn out voters for Sheehy through absentee vote-by-mail, ballot harvesting, and ballot-chasing.”

How the times have changed!

Sentinel is active also in tight U.S. Senate races in Pennsylvania and Ohio, boasting it “is the only conservative super PAC with a year-round ground game committed to turnout out absentee, early voter, and ‘day of’ voters.”

This isn’t the only private political action committee that has spent on Sheehy’s behalf.  The Steve Daines clone of “More Jobs, Less Government” also has dropped more than seven figures on this Senate contest.

We can all agree that encouraging citizenship by encouraging voters to exercise their civic duties and responsibilities is a good thing.

But can’t we be upfront and in open daylight about how something as American as get-out-the-vote campaigns are underwritten?

What is the value in shading the truth?