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Montana Labor Unions Sue To Block Same-Day Voting Restrictions

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.

Montana’s largest labor union filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Montana’s secretary of state over same-day voting registration restrictions passed during the 2021 legislative session.

The restrictions eliminate same-day voting registration for new voters and those moving from one Montana county to another: changing the late registration deadline to noon the day before the election.

The state’s largest labor union, the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the Montana AFL-CIO and a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of those with disabilities filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Cascade County.

The lawsuit argues that HB 176 unfairly burdens Montana workers and limits their ability to access the polls.

“Election day registration is especially important for working Montanans including union members,” says Amanda Curtis, president of MFPE. “In many counties Election Day is the only day in which county election offices are open outside of business hours.”

In a statement, Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, says that the lawsuit is baseless.

“Especially considering when the Montana Constitution was signed, the voter registration deadline was 30 days before an election,” Jacobsen says.

The tally of lawsuits challenging HB 176 in particular now totals 4. The Montana Democratic Party, Western Native Voice and a coalition of youth action organizations have also filed lawsuits.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.