Bill affects voter registration, students potentially impacted

House Bill 108, though lacking widespread support, has recently been a prominent issue in the Montana Legislature. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ted Washburn (R-Bozeman), concerns voter registration laws and could affect Montana students.

Other bills, most of which are sponsored by or have the support of Washburn, are related to voter registration, but HB-108 relates specifically to identification requirements for voter registration. The bill would require voters to provide a valid Montana driver’s license, an identification card issued by the Motor Vehicle Division or a tribal identification card.

Washburn stated that he proposed the bill to combat voter fraud, but opponents and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch argue there are no recorded cases of voter fraud in the state. Those who spoke against the bill said it intends to fix a problem that is not pertinent to Montana. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle also reported that, according to Assiniboine Tribe member and veteran Dustin Monroe, the bill is “meant to suppress the vote.”

“No commenters spoke in favor of the bill” at its Jan. 16 hearing in the House State Administration Committee, the Chronicle noted.

Another stipulation of the bill doubles the voter registration waiting period, changing it from 30 to 60 days. This change ultimately prevents any individual who moves to Montana, or from one Montana county to another, less than 60 days before an election from voting in his or her new district, and potentially from voting at all. The Chronicle stated that this change would make Montana’s waiting time “the most restrictive in the nation.”

The Chronicle also said that according to attorney Beth Brenneman, preventing an individual who has moved less than 60 days prior to an election from voting violates the National Voting Rights Act for federal elections.

This bill is relative to students because, if passed, first-time Montana voters or those changing counties who are not proactive about registering could find themselves without a voice when election day arrives.

  • Rosemary Lytle

    This is an excellent piece and it is so true. The attempts at voter suppression always seem to be waged on the vulnerable — poor people, people of color, young people, the elderly. It is time that elected officials put democracy before their own selfish interests. I hope you will attend when the NAACP meets on campus 2/23.