FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Did It Sink Conrad Burns?

by PAT WILLIAMS

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.

 

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail