It’s starting again. Republicans in Montana are trying to make it harder to vote.
Republicans in Montana approved a House committee bill to end Election Day voter registration, claiming they want to make things more convenient for county election officials. The House State Administration Committee voted on party lines 11-7 for the bill, proposed by a Republican.
Same day registration makes it easier for people to vote; it increases voter participation. Montana is one of eight states that has same day registration, and they’ve had it since 2005. Montana Rep. Clarena Brockie (D-Harlem) told the Missoulian that about 8,000 people “registered on Election Day in November 2012, including about 1,100 Native Americans.”
When he first introduced this bill, Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman said he believed there was voter fraud, “After watching a number of elections, yes, I suspect there is fraud.” In what can be seen as common among Republicans, Washburn doesn’t think that “the 100,000 students that are here that don’t have Montana driver’s licenses” should be allowed to vote.”
But Montana Republicans are currently claiming that the problem isn’t voter fraud, but rather that they are trying to “assist county election officials who have been overwhelmed by people registering to vote and then casting ballots on Election Day.” (Both lines were tried by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as well.) Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson said, “One thing we’ve heard is the problem that’s happening on Election Day and it seems to be getting progressively more of a problem.”
These problems aren’t detailed.
It seems voter fraud is another word Republicans have been told to stop saying, now that that myth has been debunked. The new narrative is that they are just trying to help election officials.
McCulloch, the Montana’s chief election official, says same day registration is convenient for people who have recently moved. It’s unclear why, then, the Republicans feel compelled to “address” this non-existent problem.
In Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker attacked same day registration after President Obama won Wisconsin, data suggests a loose connection between same day registration and Democratic voters. The Journal Sentinel Editorial Board (a paper that endorsed Walker) pointed out that it was bad policy that would reduce turnout for Democrats, “It’s a bad idea, and it will almost surely reduce the number of people voting – many of whom are inclined to vote for Democrats, which likely is the real reason the ever-political Walker wants to make the change.” Poll workers disagreed with Walker’s assertion that same day registration is a burden on election workers.
Perhaps fiscal conservatives in Montana should pay attention to what happened in Wisconsin, because Walker had to quit on his dreams of disenfranchising same day registration voters after it was revealed that it would cost $5.2 million to do so.
In case it’s not clear what the motives are behind bills like this, disclosures revealed that an ALEC-linked group was behind a campaign waged in Maine against same day voter registration. Money behind the campaign came from a Michigan conservative group, American Justice Partnership. They claim on their website that they are fighting the “‘scheming George Soros money machine’ which is ‘trying to sabotage your right to vote.'” Yes, really.
If we haven’t jumped the irony shark yet, Wisconsin businesses also funded the Maine campaign for voter suppression. Democracy at its corporate finest.
While we won’t know which, if any, corporate entity is behind the Montana push for voter suppression until it’s too late, this repeat screams ALEC adjacent.
This bill next goes to debate in the Montana House.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.