ACLU asks court to temporarily block two voting laws while case plays out

Plaintiffs: Laws aim to disenfranchise Indigenous and rural voters

By: - January 12, 2022 6:07 pm

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and the Native American Rights Fund filed a request on Wednesday for a Yellowstone County District Court judge to temporarily block two laws they say illegally suppress Indigenous peoples’ access to vote.

The request for the preliminary injunction was filed in Western Native Voice v. Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, where the legality of House Bills 176 and 530 are being challenged. The ACLU and the Native American Rights Fund are representing the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“HB 176 and HB 530 were designed and implemented with the specific purpose of disenfranchising Indigenous and rural voters. The Montana constitution cannot permit the exclusion of a segment of the voting public from the franchise,” said Alex Rate, legal director for the ACLU of Montana, in a news release.

House Bill 176 and part of House Bill 530 would respectively end same-day voter registration on Election Day and put restrictions on ballot collections on rural reservations, a popular tool for Get Out the Vote efforts. Both bills have been signed into law. Supporters of the Montana bills say the measures are necessary to protect election security, while opponents have called them voter suppression efforts.

“Both HB1 76 and HB 530 are not narrowly tailored because state laws already prohibit fraud, and there is no evidence that fraud is more likely to occur during [Election Day Registration] or when a pecuniary benefit for ballot collection is involved,” the request for a preliminary injunction reads.

A Yellowstone County District Court judge opted to consolidate the ACLU’s case with two other cases from the Montana Democratic Party and Montana Youth Action. While all three cases are challenging HB 176 and HB 530, the Montana Democratic Party and Montana Youth Action are also challenging a law passed in the most recent legislative session that alters voter identification requirements.

Rate said he anticipates the Montana Democratic Party and Montana Youth Action will file requests for preliminary injunctions on Wednesday as well. A hearing on the preliminary injunctions is scheduled for March 10.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. Keith was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. He can be reached by text or call at 406-475-2954 .