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.

 

Pat Williams served 18 years as Montana’s Congressman. He now lives in Missoula where he teaches at the University of Montana.

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail