Closing Range

Voting Right

I disagree with the narrative that new laws are an “attack” on voter rights or “voter suppression”

By Dave Skinner

Nonpartisan groups are upset over Montana’s legislative passage and gubernatorial signature into law of several voting and registration changes — all of which passed in a partisan manner.

Barring court rulings, Montana voters will need to register no later than “noon the day before [an] election.” No more “same day” registration (and the delay in results from precincts with many same-dayers). At the polls, voters lacking government ID and/or a Montana concealed carry permit will need two alternative “forms of identification” to be given a ballot. Finally, there’s a ban on persons “receiving pecuniary benefits” (meaning paid) to gather and deliver absentee ballots.

The “nonpartisan” (really partisan Democratic, wink wink) narrative is, these new laws are an “attack” on voter rights, or “voter suppression.”

I disagree, not just as a Republican. Most Montana voters already put in the needed time and effort to wisely (or not) vote their interests. Others, while willing, are not able, for reasons like health, age, distance and mobility. They deserve everyone’s help. 

Others, unfortunately enough to matter, are fully capable of registering, requesting an absentee ballot if needed, keeping updated addresses, studying issues and candidates, then making their marks — on their own. But they don’t, or won’t. 

Should the “don’ts” be helped or “encouraged?” Sure, voting matters enough to be worth everyone’s while. But I don’t like it when the “helpers” are actually self-interested partisan professionals. Let’s be honest here: These pros are tasked primarily with “encouraging” marginal voters who might sway an election in the preferred direction — NOT assisting voters in making sure their choice is not only informed, but properly tallied in the end.

I say this because as a “bylined opinionator,” with whatever tiny portion of political “influence” that bestows, I’m on many special-interest mailing lists I didn’t join. These lists sometimes reveal “insider” tidbits “outsiders” shouldn’t know, accidental lessons on how political games (and voters) are really played.

I recently got a list mailing from Montana Democrats about something called “deep canvassing.” After checking things out, well, any “deep canvasser” darkening my door will get brightened up pretty quick. I have no patience with religious conversions … guess how I’ll react to someone paid to solicit my political conversion.

But my poke into “deep canvassing” and its “scripts” spun off a progressive “get out the vote” script that puts the lie to whatever “nonpartisan” cloaks these many entities (on both sides) wear.

Most if not all campaign-season “polling” calls aren’t about forecasting. “Polls” exist mainly to set up those who answer “correctly” for follow-up. The first follow-up happens during the call. Correctly-polling recipients are then asked if they’re already registered. If not, then the script turns to getting that voter registered, as in name and mailing address (for not just government registration forms, but partisan junk mail and even “personal visits”).

Finally, near Election Day, the canvasser/caller/pollster calls again. Let me paraphrase: “This is Jane Dough from Kindhearted Nonpartisan Voters. How’s your cat? Great! Give Fluffy my love! Are you still going to vote for Candidate A on Tuesday?”

If “yes,” then the canvasser responds, “Great, do you need a ride to the polls [see script for other forms of “help,” such as “Can I pick up and deliver your ballot?”]? If “no” or “the other one,” the response is simply “Great, thank you,” then hang up and move to the next call. See how it really works? Somebody’s vote got suppressed right there…

If all these groups screaming, yelling and suing about these new voting laws are really serious about fair, honest elections with the widest possible participation, I suggest they shut up and get to work at:

1. Finding Montana voters lacking ID, then get them ID. Everyone needs proper identification to fully participate in society.

2. Get after registering voters, without favor either way, in plenty of time — so we’re not all left hanging on Election Night.

3. Do everything possible to educate these new voters (and their families) on getting their own ballots to the election offices in time to be counted right the first time. 

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

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