Bowen Greenwood has spent his career in Montana government and Republican politics.
He has campaigned for Republican legislature candidates, served as press secretary for the Secretary of State, and he’s been executive director of the state GOP. He has also lobbied for pro-life and family issues on behalf of the Montana Family Foundation and has been a consultant to politicians seeking office.
In 2018, he was elected clerk of the Montana State Supreme Court, a position he now holds.
All of this is just the background needed, he said, to be Montana Secretary of State.
He was in Havre last weekend campaigning on the Hi-Line and met with The Havre Herald staff Monday.
Greenwood faces state Senate President Scott Sales, state Rep. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus, and Christi Jacobsen, Chief of Staff for current Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, in the June 2 primary. The winner will face state Sen. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, in the general election.
Greenwood said the decision to run for Secretary of State was not easy.
“I love my job at the Supreme Court,” he said.
As the former Secretary of State press secretary, he said he feels he can step into the office with knowledge of its operations.
The Secretary of State’s office oversees election system operations, he said, adding it’s a main reason he feels “it’s too important for the Republicans to lose.”
For the last four years, Republican Corey Stapleton, who is running for Congress, has been Secretary of State. Democrat Linda McCulloch, who held the job previously, pushed through voter reforms that made it easier to vote — such as same-day registration, easier access to mail-in ballots and reducing voter ID rules.
Greenwood said he believes most of those are bad ideas, and he would like to change them.
He would like to see the Friday before Election Day be the last day people can register for the Tuesday election. Montana voters rejected such an initiative in 2014, but Greenwood said it is a way to make voting easier. He said allowing people to register at the Clerk and Recorder’s office on Election Day, the busiest day of the year for the staff, has resulted in long lines and hours-long waits in some of the larger cities; he added there’s nothing easier about that.
Supporters of same-day registration contend that same-day registration increases turnout by making it easier to vote. Greenwood says that underestimates Montanans’ interest in their elections.
“I don’t want to underestimate the people of Montana,” he said. “They care about the elections.”
He added that he believes people would register by Friday if that were the law.
Requiring picture ID for voters is not unreasonable, either, he said. The Clerk and Recorder’s Office and the Department of Justice offer picture ID cards for those without a driver’s license.
To encourage registration, he would have Secretary of State employees travel to county fairs, gun shows, and college campuses to register voters.
The Secretary of State’s office is also responsible for issuing business permits.
Bureaucrats often talk in government gobbledygook, he said, instead of speaking in regular English that people can understand.
Most people who use the office want to start their own business, he said. But he added that people are often intimidated by the process. He has some ideas that may help people navigate the process faster. For starters, he suggested posting a link on the website that simply reads, “Start a business.” A similar idea pertains to those who’ve gotten past the very first phase, but who need to know which forms to complete.
The Secretary of State is one of five elected officials who comprise the state Land Board, which oversees state-owned land. The Montana Constitution gives the Land Board the responsibility to raise money for education. Greenwood generally favors exploration of gas, oil and coal on state lands, as long as it’s environmentally responsible.
In his off-time, Greenwood is a fiction author. He is the author of an Amazon best-selling book, “Death of Secrets.”
He’s written several Amazon self-published books. His best-seller tallied 350,000 sold copies and was number one on Amazon’s political thriller list. It concerned the convergence of the growth of digital technology with privacy rights.
“I write stories and people read them,” he said.
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Write to John Kelleher at [email protected]