Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan on Thursday denied a request from Republicans to block Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive last month allowing counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Kagan, who has jurisdiction over the lower court involved in the case, turned down the request without referring the petition to her colleagues or asking the other side for its views.
The suit was brought by Joe Lamm of the Ravali County Republican Central Committee as well as several voters.
“While Covid is a national tragedy, it poses no emergency,” James Bopp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, wrote in court papers. Bopp noted that the Montana legislature already allowed any qualified voter to obtain a no-excuse absentee ballot by merely applying.
Lower courts have upheld Montana’s directive. Bullock, a Democrat, issued a similar directive in the primary, and all of the state’s counties opted to send out mail-in ballots to voters. Montana already allowed voters to request and submit absentee ballots without providing an excuse.
Bullock will appear on the ballot as a candidate for Senate in November. He is running against Republican Sen. Steve Daines in a competitive race that could help Democrats flip the Senate.
The case that Kagan acted on Thursday isn’t Montana’s only voting battle playing out in the courts. In September, a federal judge in Montana rejected the Trump campaign’s effort to stop an expansion of mail-in voting in the state after the campaign and the Republican National Committee filed suit following Bullock’s directive.
Montana has also faced an intrastate legal battle over whether Green Party candidates for US House and Senate could appear on the ballot this fall. They likely will not, after the US Supreme Court declined in August to take up an emergency petition from Montana’s Republican secretary of state – a decision that could affect the competitive Senate race between Bullock and Daines.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.