Montana Democrats are suing to block two election reform bills signed into law Monday by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte.
Democrats claim the two laws, which eliminate same-day voter registration and stiffen ID requirements, are unfair to certain blocs of the electorate, according to the Daily Montanan.
“These laws violate everything we believe as Americans, and everything we believe as Montanans,” Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Sandi Luckey said, according to the publication. “They intentionally impede peoples’ voting rights.”
“It is no accident that both the Voter ID Restrictions and the Election Day Registration Ban were passed just months after Montana’s youngest voters turned out to vote at record rates,” the complaint states, according to the Daily Montanan.
“Montana’s legislators knew that both the Voter ID Restrictions and the Election Day Registration Ban would place heightened burdens on Montana’s youngest voters when it passed both laws. The Montana Legislature heard direct testimony from both student voters and advocacy organizations that both laws would impose barriers on the franchise for young voters; it passed the bill anyway in direct contravention of Montana’s Equal Protection Clause.”
Democrats also complained that because their practice has been to have voters register and vote on election day, their way of operating was unfairly impacted.
“By requiring an earlier get-out-the-vote operation, it may mean a small get-out-the-vote operation,” Luckey told the Daily Montanan.
The lawsuit argues that protecting against fraud was unnecessary because no fraud had been documented, the publication reported.
It also claims young voters are particularly unable to follow the new rules.
“Sometimes young voters may show up to their polling location on Election Day without realizing their voter registration information is out of date. Now, because of HB 176, those voters will not have the option to update their registration information on Election Day,” the suit argues, according to the Daily Montanan.
It also claims the new rules for voter ID are just too hard on students.
“Those who live in a university dorm or with their parents, for example, are highly unlikely to be able to produce a utility bill in their name,” the lawsuit states, according to the Daily Montanan. “In practice, young voters also live in a paperless world – even if they do have a paycheck or a bank account linked to their address, many will not have a physical paper copy to bring to the polls.”
Republican state Rep. Sharon Greef, who sponsored the same-day registration bill, said its benefits outweighed any potential problems for voters.
“Voters can still register up until the day before the election,” she told the Daily Montanan. “This will help us conduct elections more efficiently while reducing long lines and voter frustration at the polls.”
The law will streamline the process, Greef told the news site The Center Square.
“HB 176 respects local election officials and Montana voters by ensuring that election day is focused solely on voting and counting ballots,” Greef said.
And during a February debate on the proposal, she said it was necessary for “good, clean elections,” according to CNN.
“We are blessed with the right to vote in our country, but with that right comes responsibility. The responsibility of registering to vote,” she said.
“To ensure good, clean elections, election officials should concentrate on one thing the day of the election and that is the election. We don’t want frustrated voters waiting in a long line while folks ahead of them are registering at the last minute.”
Gianforte said the “new laws will help ensure the continued integrity of Montana’s elections for years to come,” according to the Center Square.
Republican state Sen. Mike Cuffe, who sponsored the voter ID law, said the change is essential.
“SB 169 could be the most important bill I ever carry in my legislative career. Election integrity is truly the rock, the cornerstone of our nation, and voter ID is a key component in protecting the integrity of Montana elections,” Cuffe said, according to The Center Square.
Cuffe said his goal was not to react to fraud, but prevent it.
“I’m not saying, nowhere in the bill are we indicating that there is any claim of voter fraud or any wrongdoing,” he said during legislative debate, according to CNN.
“What we’re looking at here, is attempting to improve on the system, to make a good sense process better, to ensure that all members all around the state can feel very satisfactory that folks who have signed up to vote are Montana citizens.”
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