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New project aims to make up for loss of same-day voter registration in Montana

ta'jin perez voter kiosk sr.jpg
Shaylee Ragar
Yellowstone Public Radio/File photo
Ta’jin Perez, deputy director of Western Native Voice, helps install a voter registration kiosk at the Helena Indian Alliance, January 25, 2022.

In response to changes made to Montana election law and ahead of the 2022 midterms, a Native American advocacy group is rolling out a new project aiming to simplify voter registration.

Ta’jin Perez with the advocacy group Western Native Voice was at the Helena Indian Alliance health clinic Tuesday setting up a new kiosk that enables users to start the voter registration process.

"So there’ll be, obviously, a touch screen," Perez explained. "Fill in all of the required information.” 

Montana requires a physical signature for voter registration, so once users enter their information, Western Native Voice sends them a partially completed form and a free return envelope to finish the registration.

The group is looking to reach both rural and urban Native Americans in Montana by deploying the kiosks to reservations and cities in places like libraries, community colleges and clinics. The organization hopes to register 1,000 new voters across the state before Election Day.

Perez says the project aims to make up for the loss of same-day voter registration, which Republican state lawmakers ended last spring. The registration deadline is now the Friday before an election.

“The immediate remedy is gone," Perez said, "which means that organizations like ours and the public are essentially saddled with the responsibility to be proactive and preemptive when it comes to voter registration."

Western Native Voice and other groups have sued the state over the new law.

Lawmakers say it was necessary to ease the burden for county clerks on Election Day. Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen made the bill a top priority for her office.

According to the Secretary of State's office, more than 8,000 people registered to vote or updated their voter registration on Election Day in 2020.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.