Montana Law Ending Election Day Voter Registration Suspended
HELEN, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court, in a split decision Wednesday, upheld a temporary order blocking the operation of two election laws passed by the Montana Legislature from 2021 while the laws are challenged in court.
Five justices agreed with a lower court judge who blocked a law requiring people using a student card to register and vote to provide another document including their name and address.
Four justices agreed that District Court Judge Michael Moses was right to temporarily block a law that halted Election Day voter registration while the case unfolded.
“Young people use Election Day voter registration twice as much as older Montanans,” said Hunter Losing, executive director of one of the plaintiffs — the Montana Public Interest Research Group, or MontPIRG. The group registers people to vote and encourages civic engagement. “We will work hard for a big turnout in November.”
Moïse had issued his order in April temporarily blocking the two laws, along with two others, saying they appeared to unconstitutionally weigh on the right to vote.
Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen appealed, arguing that an election had already been held under the new laws and that the June 6 primary was just weeks away. The Montana Supreme Court ruled in May that the student ID law and another ending voter registration at noon Monday before Election Day would remain in effect for primary elections.
It’s unclear how long the case will take to play out and how the order could affect the November general election.
Jacobsen’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The state’s Democratic Party, tribal organizations and youth groups have challenged four laws passed by the 2021 Legislature that they say were intended to make it harder for Native Americans, new voters, seniors and residents to vote. People with Disabilities.
Moses has since declared unconstitutional a law that would not have allowed 17-year-olds who pre-register to vote to receive a ballot, by mail or otherwise, until they turn 18, even if they would have turned 18 on election day or before. .
Jacobsen did not challenge the order temporarily blocking a law that sought to ban paid collection of mail-in ballots.
Jacobsen had requested the bills as Republicans across the country were changing election laws following the November 2020 election and claims by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that the election was stolen.
The justices said Jacobsen’s arguments that the laws were meant to prevent voter fraud did not hold up on their face.
The judges said Jacobsen pointed out that there had been isolated cases of voter fraud, although none of them involved the use of student ID cards. An expert for the secretary testified that there was “some evidence that photo identification laws build confidence in elections.”
That argument was undermined, the justices said, by the fact that the law allows the use of concealed carry permits – which do not include photos – as a primary form of voter identification.
The majority also noted that the respondents said voter fraud is rare in Montana, with only a handful of cases over the past 20 years.