‘Unconstitutional:’ Court overturns 3 Montana GOP election laws
(Missoua Current) Three laws adopted by the Montana Republican Party during the 2021 Legislature placing restrictions on state voters were all overturned on Friday by the Thirteenth Judicial District Court.
In doing so, the court found that the suite of laws, which banned same-day registration and added complications around voter ID, among other things, violated the Montana Constitution and unreasonably restricted one's constitutional right to vote.
“Removing one-and-a-half days during which Montanans could register to vote and cast their vote is a severe burden on the right to vote,” the court wrote. “It would be unconstitutional to deny Montanans the right to bear arms for one-and-a-half days. It would be unconstitutional to deny Montanans the right to freedom of religion for one-and-a-half days.”
Friday's order from the court permanently enjoins Secretary of State Austin Knudsen, a Republican, from enforcing House Bill 176, which eliminated election-day registration. Gov. Greg Gianforte, also a Republican, signed the law last April and said it would “help ensure integrity of Montana's election for years to come.”
However, the court found instead that it infringed on one's right to vote.
The court also overturned Senate Bill 169, which added red tape to voter identification requirements and limited the use of student ID – a move opponents claimed was an attempt to suppress college voters, who largely vote for Democrats.
“It is no accident that the Legislature passed SB 169 just months after Montana’s youngest voters turned out to vote at record rates,” the court found. “Montana’s legislators passed the bill to prevent some young Montanans from exercising their right to vote.”
The court also found House Bill 530 unconstitutional and in July, it also permanently enjoined House Bill 506, which prevented new voters from accessing absentee ballots.
“Youth turnout in Montana has increased dramatically over the last decade. What was the Legislature’s response? Make voting more complicated,” said Kiersten Iwai, executive director at the Forward Montana Foundation. “This ruling reflects that access to the ballot box in Montana must remain free, fair, and straightforward.”
Several of the bills were challenged by Montana Youth Action, the Forward Montana Foundation and the Montana Public Interest Research Group.
“Regardless of their political views, every young person should have their voice heard on Election Day,” said Hunter Losing, the executive director of MontPIRG. “Blocking these shameless attempts to restrict the right to vote means young Montanans will continue to vote, pay attention, and stay engaged.”