Montana Governor Approves Ending Same-Day Voter Registration

Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen had requested the changes

By Associated Press
I Voted stickers next to a voter drop-off box at the Flathead County Election Department on Nov. 3, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

HELENA — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed measures Monday to end same-day voter registration and require additional identifying information from those who use a student ID to register to vote.

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

Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen had requested the changes.

Supporters of the bill to end same-day voter registration said it will allow clerks to focus on voting on Election Day and mean shorter lines at the polls.

During debate in February, Republican Rep. Jedediah Hinkle of Belgrade spoke about an election night in Gallatin County where a nonprofit group “not on our side of the aisle” bused students to the polls all day, and at 11:30 p.m., the line of voters flowed from the second floor of a courthouse outside and around the block, stressing election workers.

Opponents argued that Montana voters six years ago rejected a ballot issue to end same-day voter registration.

Under the new law, voter registration will end at noon on the Monday before Election Day.

The voter ID law initially sought to require valid driver’s licenses or state or tribal identification cards to register, but the mandate that they be valid was removed. People also can provide the last four digits of their Social Security number, a military ID, a passport or a Montana concealed carry permit to complete their registration.

The bill was changed on March 24 to require a second piece of identification for people seeking to use a student ID to register. Options include a bank statement, a utility bill, paycheck, government check or other government document that shows the person’s name and current address.

“Basically, it makes that 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,” House Speaker Wylie Galt said.

Republican Rep. Geraldine Custer of Forsyth opposed the amendment, saying it discriminated against students and would lead to a legal challenge.

Galt said Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and Utah all require additional information from college students before they can register to vote.

The governor also has signed a bill to require election clerks to check their registration lists annually for voters who may have moved.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.