Secure Our Right to Vote

Recent legislative actions in Montana have made access to voting harder. Restricting eligible voters’ access to voting does not equate to more secure elections. For example, let’s look at the new voting law HB176 “eliminating same-day voter registration on Election Day” to see if it truly protects our elections by making voting less accessible to Montanans. From 2006 to 2018, approximately 60,000 Montana registered and voted on Election Day without a single case of voter fraud. 2020 recorded the second-highest use of same-day voter registration by Montanans (nearly 8,200 Montanans) to vote in this election, and again, without a single case of voter fraud. That means more and more Montanans are choosing this method to vote in each upcoming election. But now in 2022 with this new law in place, there will be zero Montanans using same-day voter registration to vote.

Did this new law further protect our elections when a more secure process of registering voters in person on Election Day is now banned? Why prevent Montanans from having the same access to voting rights as the previous 68,000 Montanans over the last 15 years who could register and vote on Election Day if it does not crack down on voter fraud or provide more election security?

It is not too hard to predict who this new law will impact, like senior citizens, disabled veterans, and college students whose voter registration addresses were not updated when they moved to the assisted living centers or colleges and only learned of this error at the polling location on the day of the election. Or Montanans who are busy with work and family and forget to update their voter registration and get an hour off of work to vote on Election Day, only to find out their voter registration is not active. Do we really think having these Montanans not voting in our elections makes our elections more secure with less voter fraud?

Our question to our state government officials should be: Why are you passing laws making it harder for thousands of Montana voters to vote without first conducting a study to determine the best ways to tackle voter fraud and secure our elections? We all want more secure elections, but please don’t blindly attack our access to voting without determining how voter fraud occurs, where weaknesses in election security exist, so effective policies and procedures can be adopted that truly help secure our elections.

Note to state legislators: Please don’t pass new voting laws like eliminating same-day voter registration which will restrict thousands of Montanans from voting without showing a single shred of evidence that this ban would prevent voter fraud or make our elections more secure. Here’s a hint: investigate impersonation voter fraud, which rarely occurs but seems to be the only documented cases of voter fraud in Montana. Same-day voter registration did not add to voter fraud, it did not make our elections less secure. All the new law to eliminate same-day voter registration did was make it harder for Montanans to vote.  Five lawsuits have been filed against the State of Montana to stop this law along with three other voting laws from restricting Montanans’ ability to exercise their right to vote.

Only time will tell how many Montanans will not be able to vote due to these new laws, but we may never know, since no one at the Secretary of State’s Office is tracking how many Montanans are being turned away from voting in our state due to these new laws.

To protect Montanans’ access to their right to vote in our elections, we must pass laws in Congress that set the bare standards for states to protect voting rights of every eligible American voter across our country. No one, regardless of political party, in our democracy should lose their access to exercise their right to vote.

Rebecca Johnson lives in Montana City, Montana.