HELENA, Mont. — Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen announced this week she has dispelled attacks on Montana’s commonsense voting laws. The Secretary filed a reply brief in the voting rights case before the Montana Supreme Court.
Secretary Jacobsen, state and local election officials, and voters in Montana are awaiting a decision by the Montana Supreme Court regarding laws passed during the 2021 Legislative Session, including registration deadlines, voter identification, ballot harvesting for cash, and meeting eligibility requirements before obtaining a ballot.
The reply brief points to the Constitution’s affirmative command to the Legislature to regulate elections. The Montana Constitution (Mont. Const. art. IV, §§ 2–3) provides for the Legislature to “provide by law the requirements for residence, registration, absentee voting, and administration of elections. It may provide for a system of poll booth registration, and shall insure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the electoral process.”
Despite the litigation lasting over two years, the plaintiffs have not identified a single person that has been harmed by Montana’s voter identification.
During a survey following Montana’s midterm elections, election administrators throughout the state cited adjusting the state’s late registration deadline as the top way to improve Montana’s elections.
During the 2022 midterm elections, media reports cited higher midterm primary election voter turnout in June 2022, where HB 176 was in effect, compared to previous midterm primary elections; and they cited lower midterm general election voter turnout in November 2022, following the commonsense law being enjoined, in comparison to previous midterm general elections, undermining the arguments made in the case.
“These laws are commonsense laws that increase voter confidence and assist election officials,” said Secretary Jacobsen. “These laws continue to be supported by Montanans as I strive to make our elections safe, secure, transparent, and accessible for all Montanans.”
Other points debunking plaintiffs’ arguments in the case include:
- Montana’s 1972 Constitutional Convention granted the Legislature “very broad” authority to “pass whatever statutes it deems necessary” to keep Montana elections “free of fraud.”
- The brief stresses that “the appellees cannot cite a single case – anywhere, ever – that struck down a registration deadline.”
- Secretary Jacobsen also noted in the brief that the plaintiffs have not identified “a single student who has ever even used a student ID to vote, or would use a student ID to vote.”
- While Montana’s HB 176 applies a one-day registration deadline, much longer registration deadlines have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court, and many state and federal courts.
- Reasonable registration deadlines allow “election officials to direct their exclusive and tireless attention to election management and preparation.”
- Claims that Election Day registration does not delay vote reporting and increase lines do not hold up. Following the November 2022 midterm general election, media reports cited delayed reporting and long lines of people lined up to register and vote.
- Further media reports following the June 2022 midterm primary election, where HB 176 was applied, stated voter turnout was higher than previous midterm elections, while turnout in the general election was lower, despite same-day registration.
- In addition to the numerous ways eligible electors can register to vote in Montana, the state allows no-excuse absentee registration and voting by mail. Montana also has one of the longest late registration periods in the country.