Did It Sink Conrad Burns?


Do you remember those happy scenes of Iraqi voters walking out of the voting places with a smile on their face and a purple covered finger stuck proudly in the air? That voting process is called same-day voting.

America’s men and women are dying everyday in Iraq to assure the right of the Iraqis to cast their ballots, and yet here at home some high, elected officials are trying to prevent our own citizens, right here in Montana, from having same-day voting–the identical process that we all cheered in Iraq.

Last year, for the first time, Montanans enjoyed the benefits of being able to register and vote on election day. The 2006 turnout was remarkable, particularly given the perhaps understandable voter lethargy and low turnout of the previous several decades, not only here in Montana but also throughout the nation. Less than exciting candidates, tepid policies, and citizen frustration and confusing voter registration and election day rules all combined to dramatically reduce election day turnout.

In the election of 1960, an astonishing 86% of registered Montanans turned out at the polls on election day. That healthy turnout has shrunk through the years to an embarrassing 54% in 2002. That long decline ended last November with Senators Conrad Burns and Jon Tester at the top of the ticket and a new Montana law known as election-day or same-day registration, which helped our voter turnout jump to around 70%.

Almost 4,000 Montanans responded to the new law by both registering and voting on election day and helping to boost turnout. At the Gallatin County Courthouse, so many people showed up that the final voter cast his votes at five minutes to midnight. In Missoula County the last voter cast his ballot at 9:32 that evening. Of course, the polls close throughout the state at 8:00 p.m. but the law has always allowed those standing in line at that hour to wait and cast their vote, and they did"with the most determined people waiting almost four hours.

Eight states have same-day registration: Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Montana. Each has found that making it easier for people to vote has dramatically increased citizen participation in that critical democratic process.

Can same-day registration and voting have its problems? Of course. We should all expect that same-day registration laws have adequate safeguards to prevent fraud. We also must provide local election officials with enough election day staff to handle the crowds of people who wish to both register and vote on that day. However, we should also be determined to correct any problems that might exist by curing the difficulties, not by making it more difficult to vote.

Unfortunately two bills are now before the Montana Legislature to do just that and, unfortunately, they have the support of the Secretary of State. Their stated reasons for wanting to repeal same-day registration range from "diminished integrity of the election process" to "somewhat chaotic." It is interesting to note, however, that in almost every state, including Montana, the opposition to same-day registration comes from Republican officials. They don’t seem to like high turnouts–our former Republican Senator Conrad Burns’ defeat might be a case in point.

Montana’s new same-day registration is working and represents a refreshing departure from America’s sometimes regrettable history of using voter registration laws to blatantly practice partisan and racial disfranchisement.

PAT WILLIAMS served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana. After his retirement, he returned to Montana and is teaching at The University of Montana where he also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West.


Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving