Democrats sue over Montana Voter Repression Laws

LAME DEER, Mont. – April 20th, 2021, the Montana Democratic Party announced that it has filed suit over two laws recently passed by the state legislature under the Gianforte Administration that will limit voter participation.  The suit is lodged against Christi Jacobsen, Montana Secretary of State, the principal official who oversees state elections.

“Fair access to the ballot box for all eligible voters–whether they are Republicans, Democrats or independents–is essential to the Montana way of life,” said Sandi Luckey, Montana Democratic Party Executive Director. “We will continue to hold accountable any leader who attacks our democratic institutions.” 

Both measures would limit overall participation, but particularly for the elderly, young voters, Native Americans, low-income voters, and those who make Election Day decisions.  “We are proud to advocate for those that Republican politicians are trying to exclude from the political process,” added Luckey.

For example, the Legislature heard testimony describing the many barriers to registration and voting that impede Native voters’ access to the franchise. Facing high unemployment, election administrators’ offices and polling locations that are far from reservations, and unreliable mail, Native-voter turnout is approximately 20 percentage points below the state average. Without the help of community organizers that arrange transportation and mobilize voters on Election Day, these barriers could prohibit many Natives from registering to vote or casting their ballots entirely. To overcome those barriers, Native voters often register and vote on Election Day when organizers arrange transportation to election administrators’ offices and polling locations.

The lawsuit is similar to one successfully pursued seven years ago by Western Native Voice to allow Election Day voter registration (EDR).

 Apparently in response to record-breaking turnout during the 2020 elections, driven in large part by voters between the ages of 18-29, the Republican leaders of the legislature passed two bills aimed at limiting turnout amongst younger voters: House Bill 176 which eliminates election day registration and Senate Bill 169 which would require a secondary form of identification in addition to a Montana college or university identification cards to be used as part of the voting process.

Norma Bixby, Northern Cheyenne Board member for Western Native Voice (WNV), an organization dedicated to increasing Native American voting agreed.  “We also discussed filing a lawsuit on these bills although not yet taking action.  Yet, the Democratic Party is right – these two new laws will likely make it more difficult of our constituents to vote and WNV is very supportive of the Montana Democratic Parties suit.”

(Contact Clara Caufield at acheyennevoice@gmail.com)

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