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Montana Democratic Party Challenges New Election Laws

A voter drops off mail-in ballots at the Yellowstone County Court House June 2, 2020.
Nicky Ouellet
Yellowstone Public Radio
A voter drops off mail-in ballots at the Yellowstone County Court House June 2, 2020.

The Montana Democratic Party is challenging the constitutionality of new policies ending same-day voter registration and changing voter ID requirements. Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed them into law Monday.

The Montana Democratic Party argues the laws disproportionately curb voting rights despite a lack of evidence for widespread election fraud in the state, according to a complaint filed in Yellowstone County District Court hours after they went on the books Monday.

One of the new statutes moves the late voter registration deadline to noon the day before an election. The other prevents residents from voting with a college photo ID as a sole form of identification, while adding concealed carry permits to the list of acceptable IDs.

Lawmakers passed the bills largely along party lines.

Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Sandi Luckey says the bills were designed to target young, low-income and Indigenous voters who are less likely to cast ballots for Republicans.

“Montana Democrats want fair elections. Gianforte and the Republicans just want to hold onto their power. And we think democracy works best when voters choose their leaders, not the other way around,” Luckey said.

Gianforte’s office says the policies bolster Montana’s voting safeguards while easing the Election Day administrative burden on county workers.

A spokesperson for Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, named as the defendant in the complaint, did not return a request for comment.

During a press call, Republican Senate Pres. Mark Blasdel said there will likely be discussions in coming days about the Legislature joining the suit to defend the laws.

Election policies have polarized lawmakers across the United States following unfounded claims of widespread fraud during the 2020 election. Many Republican-led Legislatures are proposing policies they say will bolster election security as congressional Democrats prioritize sweeping legislation they say will expand voting access at the federal level.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America statehouse reporter.