Poor Jake Eaton. That’s the latest subject line from the state Republican Party, which suddenly withdrew its bid to challenge the voter registration of more than 6,000 Montanans in a Tuesday letter to Missoula County Clerk-Recorder Vickie Zeier. It seems the GOP’s executive director felt smeared by a media that characterized his voter suppression scheme as, well, voter suppression.

Eaton and other Republican staffers testified in affidavits last week that the 6,000-plus voters don’t live where they’re registered to vote—a series of claims based on a U.S. Postal Service log of change-of-address requests. Pretty much all of the challenges surfaced on Democratic turf, including roughly 3,400 in Missoula County.

The Republicans now assert evil editors and pundits took the most cynical approach possible in covering the controversial challenges—an unfounded belief. We rather imagined Eaton like a Keebler elf, magically icing each chocolaty affidavit with journeyman skill in his tiny workshop while still managing to crank out 6,000 in a single day. (That’s 4.17 per minute.) GOP staffers retort that he didn’t sign them all, but we haven’t seen a non-Eaton affidavit yet.

Republicans say their intention was to check and double-check the registry in light of Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s recent voter fraud joshing. So, despite all outward appearances, this was nothing like the illegal practice known as caging, where electioneers de-validate unsuspecting voters with certified mail schemes. Nobody actually bothered to mail anything this time.

Many liberal activists, like Forward Montana’s Matt Singer, are still calling for either Eaton’s dismissal or for Erik Iverson, the state GOP chairman, to own up to launching this mass voter challenge. Whatever Iverson’s actual involvement, the connection proved ample pretext to get protesters outside of Rep. Denny Rehberg’s local office on Oct. 7. Iverson is also the chief of staff for the up-for-reelection congressman.

At this point, we’re not sure where the Republicans’ withdrawal places an Oct. 6 complaint filed by Democrats in U.S. District Court. The poor timing of these shenanigans and potential impact on voter turnout had many Dems howling for some sort of legal retribution against Eaton, but what now? Will the Democrats saunter off with a political victory or try to land people in jail?

Until we know for sure, it’s the duty of the malicious press to think up moronic prefixes to toss in front of -gate in the event that a bona fide scandal surfaces. We vote for Addressgate.

But we’ll see how the cookie crumbles. If it’s anything like a Keebler, it’ll be stale by the time anybody wants to eat it anyway.
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