Both the state Legislature and Congress are introducing bills that either restrict ballot access for security reasons or to improve access allowing for greater voter participation. In Montana, HB 176 eliminates same-day voter registration (important to tribal members), while HB 169 restricts the types of IDs permissible for voter identification. Bills improving access at the congressional level include HR 1, the For the People Act, which seeks to expand voting rights, diminish the role of money in politics, reduce partisan gerrymandering and enhance ethics laws. In Montana, HB 613 (Native American Voting Rights Act) works to reduce voting barriers in Indigenous communities.
Both sides of the debate should look to red Kentucky. In light of the pandemic, a Democratic governor and a Republican secretary of state created a bipartisan emergency plan allowing for early voting, countywide voting centers, online portals for absentee ballot requests and other access measures, while also adding security measures (no third party ballot collection, and some voter rolls purging under certain conditions). Despite expanded voter access, Republicans did extremely well in the election.
The Kentucky legislature may make these changes permanent. The trick was to couple voter expansion with enhanced security measures, a compromise that recognizes both sides of the ballot access debate. Montana should take note.
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