Democrats file lawsuit to block two new Montana election integrity laws

As Republicans in various states move to implement new measures intended to strengthen election integrity, many Democrats have made it clear that they will vociferously oppose any and all such proposals.

One day after Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a pair of bills into law on Monday, state Democrats filed a lawsuit in an effort to have them declared unconstitutional, the Washington Examiner reports.

What the new laws mean

Proponents of the Montana bills sought to strengthen voter identification requirements and end the practice of same-day registration, which allows voters to register on Election Day and immediately cast a ballot.

For their part, opponents alleged in their lawsuit that the new measures violate the state constitution’s equal protection clause, asserting that the moves were deliberately intended to reduce turnout among young voters who tend to favor the Democratic Party.

Gianforte signed HB 176 into law, thereby requiring Montana voters to register no later than noon on the day before an election.

The governor also signed SB 169, narrowing the forms of acceptable identification that voters may use to confirm their registration, limiting the options to government-issued photo ID cards or a concealed carry permits. The measure does, however, include a list of alternative forms of ID from which individuals could produce two, thus entitling them to a provisional ballot pending the subsequent confirmation of their identities.

In touting the impact of the twin measures, Gianforte said: “Montana has a long history of secure, transparent elections, setting a standard for the nation. These new laws will help ensure the continued integrity of Montana’s elections for years to come.”

Why Democrats oppose them

Christi Jacobsen, Montana’s Republican secretary of state also supported the changes, noting that “voter ID and voter registration deadlines are best practices in protecting the integrity of elections.”

Montana Democrats clearly disagreed, as evidenced by the lawsuit filed on Tuesday seeking to block and overturn the new laws on the argument that they amounted to voter disenfranchisement not only for young voters, but also for the elderly, Native Americans, the disabled, and others.

Sandi Luckey, the party’s executive director, issued a statement declaring that the new laws “violated everything we believe as Americans, and everything we believe as Montanans,” adding that they “intentionally impede peoples’ voting rights.”

The lawsuit asserted that state lawmakers “knew that both the Voter ID Restrictions and the Election Day Registration Ban would place heightened burdens on Montana’s youngest voters when it passed both laws” and “heard direct testimony from both student voters and advocacy organizations that both laws would impose barriers on the franchise for young voters” but “passed the bill anyway in direct contravention of Montana’s Equal Protection Clause.”

Jacobsen is named as the defendant in the court document, which was filed in Yellowstone County and assigned to Judge Mary Jane Knisely, who happens to be the same judge who administered Gianforte’s oath of office.

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