Montana Republicans achieved unified control of the state government in 2020 by winning the governor’s race for the first time in 16 years. It allowed them to fulfill a long-held goal, making it difficult for youth and students to vote.

The state legislature passed four bills this year. They were then signed by Montana Governor. Greg Gianforte, R): These bills make it more difficult for students to register to cast their votes and to register others to vote. These bills eliminated Election Day voter registration and made student ID an unacceptable form of voter identification. They also placed additional residency and age requirements on voters.

Former President Barack Obama was the inspiration for Montana’s restrictive voting laws. Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to Joe BidenBy lying about election corruption. In many states, Republicans have passed new voting restrictions, specifically targeting those communities who are most likely to vote in favor of Democratic candidates. These restrictions were placed on Black voters and Latino voters in some states. Students and Native Americans were among the targets in Montana.

Montana Republicans are targeting students, young voters and Native Americans because these communities have helped Democrats narrowly win statewide elections over the past 15 years despite the state’s strong partisan lean in favor of Republicans at the national level. Sen. Jon Tester, now Montana’s only statewide elected Democrat, won his three elections by between 3,000 and 18,000 votes. Former governor Former Gov. Tester could be reelected in 2024.

State Republicans claim their new election restrictions are meant to enhance “election integrity.” But just like Trump’s election fraud lies, the new laws respond to no record of fraud or malfeasance in state elections. When a Montana state court ruled against Trump’s effort to block Montana counties from implementing mail voting in 2020, it noted that there is “no record of election fraud in Montana’s recent history.”

Montana youth groups are assailing the new laws as “a cocktail of voter suppression measures that land heavily on the young,” according to a lawsuit filed in OctoberForward Montana Foundation, Montana Youth Action, and MontPIRG are all voter registration non-profits.

“When you look at each of these individually, alone, they look like they could be targeting students,” said Scout McMahon, a 17-year-old high school senior in Kalispell, Montana, and initiatives chair for Montana Youth Action. “But when you put them all together ― you have the age discrimination, the residency discrimination, changing specifically student ID while also introducing another form and eliminating Election Day registration. It’s a pretty express attack against student voters and youth voters as a whole.”

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R), signed four restrictive laws that will make it more difficult for young voters and students to vote in the state.
Tommy Martino via Associated Press

Most obvious changes that are affecting young voters and students in general, is the one that impacts the entire population. That’s because Election Day voter registration has ended. Also known as Same-day voter registry.

Although everyone will be affected equally by the removal of Election Day voter identification, young voters are likely to suffer more. Studies in political science show that those aged 18-24 move more frequently and have less interaction with government agencies than people older. This complexity adds to the overall process. people without prior voting experienceThis increases the chance that people will not register to vote, and therefore not be eligible to vote.

“People we have talked to while knocking doors didn’t know that they could go register,” Alexa Runnion, board chair of MontPIRG, said.

Between 1% and 2.3% of all votes cast in Montana elections came from voters who’d registered on Election Day. These were mostly students or other young voters who had been helped by get-out-the vote efforts of youth groups and other political organizations.

An update for 2019 studyIt was found that youth voting increased by 3.5-10.1 percentage points after states implemented Election Day voter Registration.

“This is a really big blow to Montana,” Kiersten Iwai, executive director of Forward Montana, said.

Since 2006 Montana has had Election Day Registration. Republicans have tried to repeal it since then. It was repealed by two bills passed in the Republican-led state legislatures of 2011 and 2013 but they were vetoed both times by Democratic governors. 2014 saw the legislative vote to place repeal as an initiative on the 2015 ballot. The initiative was widely rejected by the voters, which received 57% support.

Despite the popular support of Montana voters, Republicans took the opportunity to repeal same-day registration after winning the governor’s office in 2020. Republicans voiced concerns about students being bused to voting locations so they could register on Election Day when the legislation was under discussion in the legislature.

“And those nonprofit groups ― and they were not on our side of the aisle ― what they were doing?” state Rep. Jedediah Hinkle, a Republican, said. “When they were 30 feet from the building, they were working all of those people with literature, pizza, heat lamps, and everything else.”

Republicans have also taken student ID cards off the approved list of acceptable photo identification forms for voting. Republicans added concealed weapons permits as an acceptable form of photo identification to the voter’s list.

If students do not have another acceptable form of voter ID showing their address, they will need to present an additional identification that lists their name, address and details, such as a bank statement, utility bill, or pay stub. Young voters and students may move often and live in dorms, or in rooms with others who have bills.

“Even as a young professional when I was out of college, I wasn’t on a utility bill,” Iwai said. “I wasn’t on a lease. I didn’t have an official document that showed where I live. It’s all these different layers that make it so confusing.”

For Republicans, this just means that students shouldn’t vote in Montana elections.

“If you’re a college student in Montana and you don’t have a registration, a bank statement or a W-2, it makes me kind of wonder why you’re voting in this election anyway,” Montana House Speaker Wylie Galt, a Republican, saidDuring February’s floor debate.

Voters wait in line outside the Gallatin County Courthouse in Bozeman, Montana, home of Montana State University, Nov. 3, 2020.
Voters line up outside of the Gallatin county Courthouse in Bozeman (Montana), home to Montana State University.
Tommy Martino via Associated Press

Republicans introduced new residency and age requirements for young voters, threatening to impose legal sanctions on election workers.

The new law applies to voters turning 18 within the 30 days preceding an election. It prohibits election workers from providing absentee ballots prior to a voter’s birthday. This law will allow Montanans to vote on Election Day but they are not allowed to access the ballots of their choice because of their age.

The youth groups challenging this law argue that it violates the Montana Constitution, which guarantees that “the rights of persons under 18 years of age shall include, but not be limited to, all fundamental rights of this Article unless specifically precluded by laws which enhance the protections of such persons.”

This law, in addition to the age requirement for absentee voting, also includes a residency requirement that prohibits election workers from providing a ballot to someone who can’t prove that they live at their address at least 30 consecutive days.

“Barriers like this pretty actively discourage a student vote and for young people in general,” McMahon said.

Montana Republicans also targeted student voter registration by banning dorm and dining hall activities. Students who are interning with or volunteering for the Republican or state Democratic parties cannot door knock in dorms on campus or install voter registration booths within certain buildings. The law was blocked by a judge who issued a preliminary injunction to prevent it from being challenged in court.

All of these laws now face multiple lawsuits from youth activist and voter registration groups, as well as political committees, including the Montana Democratic Party and Tester’s Senate campaign committee, and other individuals and groups affiliated with Montana state universities.

Absent judicial rulings overturning them, the congressional passage of voting rights reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act, co-authored by Tester, would override some of Montana’s new laws, including the ban on Election Day voter registration and the new restrictions on student voter ID. The Senate is blocking the bill due to a GOP filibuster. Tester is just one of three Democrats in the Democratic caucus. talking to colleagues about changing the filibuster rulesPass the bill.


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