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Senator sponsors bill to simplify irrigation elections

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LAKE COUNTY – Sen. Dan Salomon (R) sponsored a bill to help make irrigation elections easier, and the Governor signed it into law on May 1 after a 50-0 vote on the third reading. 

Senate Bill 116 revises the voter requirements in irrigation district elections across the state. “Numerous irrigation districts all dealt with issues, so we cleaned it up to make the process easier,” Salomon said.   

The bill states that electors are not subject to state residency requirements so landowners living outside the state can still vote on issues concerning their property, and the county signature verifications have changed. 

Voters are no longer required to submit designee forms on property with more than one owner to election officials in order to get a ballot. The designee information will be collected by the irrigation districts and will only need to be updated if the land is sold. Salomon said the county is out of the process, and the irrigation districts are now in charge of making sure only one vote is cast per acre. He said the designee forms will no longer need to be notarized.

In the past, when voters were asked to designate one person to vote on property with more than one owner, the forms needed to be notarized and sent to the election office before a ballot was sent out. The designee requirement was created to ensure that only one person cast a vote for each acre or fraction of an acre, but many people found the process to be confusing, and if it wasn’t done correctly, they didn’t get a ballot.

The annual irrigation election allowing voters to cast ballots for board members was supposed to occur during this month’s District Election. David Lake and Janette Rosman’s board seats on the Flathead District are up for election. An issue occurred before ballots were sent out concerning the documented number of acres owned by some irrigators after it was discovered that records hadn’t been updated due to a turnover in management. The delay has allowed time for the Senate bill to be decided on and the new law to be implemented. The special election for those board seats will be held in July. 


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