Letters: Montana House Bill 176 is voter suppression

When I introduced the bill that created Montana’s Election Day registration in 2005, the legislature was filled with members who believed that our democracy works best when more of our citizens exercise their right to vote.

Senate Bill 302 spoke to this important value. It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Only 16 third reading votes were cast against it in the entire 2005 legislature.

In the years following its passage, thousands of our citizens took advantage of the convenience of updating their registrations and voting on the same day.

We’ve had seven statewide elections since then and there have been no documented instances of voter fraud that resulted from this practice.

Montanan voters also soundly defeated an initiative that would have ended Election Day registration in 2014.

Make no mistake about it. HB 176, the bill to end Election Day registration, will make it harder for a significant segment of our citizens to exercise the most fundamental right of our democracy: the right to vote.

Everyone who needs to register or update his or her registration will be required to make two trips to the election office, one for registration and one to vote. The impact will fall hardest upon our many rural residents and upon our Native American neighbors. It is undeniable that adding this new burden will mean that fewer of us will vote.

Voter suppression is an ugly term, but it is accurately applied to the purpose of this bill.

I urge this legislature to recommit itself to the foundational principle of our democracy: that when more of us vote, we come closer to the ideal of being a government “of, by, and for the people.”