Big Sky Roundup

Bill ending same-day registration in Montana passes House

By: - February 5, 2021 5:01 pm

Legislation that would end Election-Day voter registration in Montana has passed out of the state House on a 64-34 vote. It now awaits action in the Senate.

The bill, Rep. Sharon Greef’s House Bill 176, cuts off voter registration at noon the day before an election, something Greef, R-Florence, and other proponents say would help relieve strain on election workers. An initial version of the proposal cut off registration on the Friday before Election Day, though this was amended in the House State Administration Committee.

Some members of the GOP would like to see that amendment reversed, and have pledged to lobby in the Senate to move the cutoff back to the Friday before the election.

The bill is also a priority of Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, one of several “election integrity” proposals she’s pushing this session.

Around 4,000 Montanans registered and voted on Election Day in 2020. Advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Western Native Voice have warned that ending same-day registration in Montana could disenfranchise indigenous Montanans, those in the state’s rural areas and the elderly.

Montana voters roundly rejected a ballot initiative to end same-day registration in 2014.

“This House vote goes against the will of the people,” said Keaton Sunchild, political director for Western Native Voice, in a statement. “We hope that the Senate will right this wrong and ensure that same-day voter registration stays.”

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Arren Kimbel-Sannit
Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Arren Kimbel-Sannit is an Arizona-bred journalist who has covered politics, policy and power building at every level of government. Before getting his dose of northern exposure, Arren worked as a reporter in all manner of Arizona newsrooms, for the Dallas Morning News and for POLITICO in Washington, D.C. He has a special interest in how land-use decisions affect working-class people, which he displayed through reporting on the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. for the Los Angeles Times and PBS Newshour. He's also covered housing, agriculture, the Trump presidency and more.