Bill to end Election Day voter registration gets initial OK in Montana House

2013-02-01T05:45:00Z 2013-03-01T18:42:08Z Bill to end Election Day voter registration gets initial OK in Montana HouseBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau missoulian.com

HELENA – House Republicans pushed through a bill Thursday to end same-day voter registration and instead cut it off at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.

House Bill 30 by Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman, passed an initial 61-39 vote, with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats against it. The bill faces a final vote before heading to the Senate.

Republicans cited long waiting lines and confusion on Election Day resulting from what’s known as “same-day voter registration” as a reason to change the 2005 state law.

Democrats countered that it would deprive people of their right to vote if they learned on Election Day they weren’t registered when they thought they were.

“All we’re doing is moving the registration back so that the clerk and recorder’s staff can work on the election on Election Day, and the voters, if they’re going to run through the voting process, can be moved along speedily, rather than a four- to six-hour wait,” Washburn said.

Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, agreed, saying, “Why in the world can’t people register on Friday, give the county clerks and recorders reasonable time to take care of business, and be ready for an election?”

A former election administrator, Rep. Pat Ingraham, R-Thompson Falls, said voter registration on Election Day was intended “to address those few people that might have been moving in and just didn’t get things changed and really wanted to vote.”

But it has become a “greater burden to bear” because so many more people are using it, she said.

But Democrats said the right to vote is paramount. County elections supervisors hire more staff and buy more computers to handle the overflow of those registering to vote on Election Day.

“We’re preparing to deny the right to vote, a fundamental right, to people who may have forgotten to change their registration until the last minute, people who have moved or been forgetful,” said Rep. Tom Woods, D-Bozeman, who said he was forgetful. “Denying that vote is a form of punishment that we reserve for felons.”

Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, called HB30 “one of the worst bills because it cuts to the core of why we are all here and that is our democracy.”

“Who is it in your district that you’re willing to say I’m sorry?” Bennett said. “A veteran who is coming from the war who didn’t get a chance to fill out a voter registration card? You don’t get to vote. Sorry, single mom that’s working three jobs. You don’t get to vote.”

Rep. Clarena Brockie, D-Hayes, said more than 1,100 of her fellow Native Americans registered and voted on Election Day in 2012. She said it’s not an easy job to turn out the vote because many don’t realize they aren’t registered.

“We believe that this violates our rights under the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” she said.

The state’s chief election official, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat, denounced HB30 as “a ruthless bill that denies Montanans their right to vote.”

She testified that more than 28,000 Montanans have registered and voted on Election Day since the law took effect.

Republicans have tried to reverse the law ever since it passed, while Democrats have defended it. Then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a similar bill in 2011.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at chuck.johnson@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(25) Comments

  1. sallymander
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    sallymander - February 01, 2013 3:40 pm
    Considering the low voter turnout already it's totally typical of the party of stupid to try to suppress voters even more. The public is paying attention though and by their own actions the GOP will become extinct within a decade.
  2. dsrobins
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    dsrobins - February 01, 2013 1:55 pm
    Do you plan to bring back slavery too?
  3. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - February 01, 2013 12:14 pm
    " I don't see how insulting the character and/or intelligence of people who wait until Election Day to register is helpful."

    It may not be helpful, but it sure explains why we have an idiot for president. ignorant people vote for ignorant presidents. oh and don't think I only have it out for babama, I can't stand bible thumpin' romney either. someday, maybe we'll acutally get an independent in office and then maybe we can be America again.

    We need to have more choices than someone who takes from the working to give to the lazy poor, or someone who tells me I can't have an abortion and I need to go to church! Right and Left both suck! I didn't vote for either of the 2 evils! I am surprised there were long lines to vote being as there wasn't anything worth while to vote for!
  4. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - February 01, 2013 12:08 pm
    LOL! Great point!
  5. madtaxpayer
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    madtaxpayer - February 01, 2013 12:07 pm
    If these people standing in line are to ignorant to sign up to vote by mail, that's their problem. I have no sympathy for them. once again it's called being RESPONSIBLE!!!
  6. Dub
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    Dub - February 01, 2013 12:03 pm
    Voting is a very important activity. It requires some thought, research and diligence. To quote Bryce Bennett is a waste of editorial space. He is an extreme lefty that does not understand the process and has no credibility. Nothing wrong with what is being presented by HB 30. It might cause more voters to at least think ahead and look at the issues rather than some kid knocking on the door with a brochure supporting a candidate they don't even know .
  7. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - February 01, 2013 9:34 am
    How would infringing on working peoples ability to vote be considered "hopeful" Do you have any idea how many working people tried to vote on their lunch hour and were forced to leave because they couldn't stand in line for 3 or more hours. Is it hopeful to have senior citizens and handicapped people stand in line for 3 or more hours for their opportunity to vote. I witnessed many people leave who did not have the chance to vote because the lines were jammed upwards of 3 hours. Backing the lines up for hours kept many people from being able to vote and made it an arduous task for many others, voting is our civic duty, being prepared is our responsibility.
  8. idiot state
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    idiot state - February 01, 2013 8:34 am
    While all the other states in the region (and most in the nation) had their election results in promptly, ol' Montana was the only one lagging pathetically behind-like some Third World country. Montana's voting laws are loose sloppy corrupt and cater to the same kind of people at the expense of those who're responsible enough to take voting seriously. Unfortunately the big labor unions and corrupt politicians run that state; Bullock's veto of this bill is pretty much a given. Corrupt liberal democrats need all the voting fraud they can get..
  9. Watching
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    Watching - February 01, 2013 8:31 am
    Who are you to say last-minute registrants lack ambition or intelligence? What kind of elitist, snobbish comment is that?
  10. casinebdwp
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    casinebdwp - February 01, 2013 8:19 am
    I have voted in every election, primaries included since I was able to vote. I registered absentee when I went away to college, or when I was not in town because of travel. I registered to vote every time I moved - approximately every two years. I have never had a problem with registering and I have never waited until the last minute to do so. I believe that 30 days prior to the election is an appropriate deadline for registration unless there is an extenuating circumstance (perhaps you moved inside of 30 days or turn 18). This allows the election personnel to focus on the polls and other things that need to be done to make the process run smoothly. I am not a republican or a democrat. I do not understand how some of you feel that people are disenfranchised by not being able to register same day. If the law says 30 days you follow the law. Everyone - no matter race, creed, sexual orientation, age have to follow the same law. It makes sense to me that by not allowing same day registration we free up our election personnel to address REAL issues on voting day and we minimize the potential for voter fraud.
  11. Roger
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    Roger - February 01, 2013 7:57 am
    I don't get it - why would any thinking person advocate election day voter registration? Those who support that nonsense must be either mentally challenged or corrupt.
  12. buffalojack
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    buffalojack - February 01, 2013 7:23 am
    I'm tempted to side with those who point out that there's lots of time and opportunities for people to register before Election Day, and I certainly think we should continue trying to get everyone registered ahead of time--though I don't see how insulting the character and/or intelligence of people who wait until Election Day to register is helpful. At the end of the day, since I have no way of knowing why any given individual waits until Election Day to register, I don't want to deny his or her right to vote; I think "same day" registration should remain as a last option.
  13. LastBestPlace
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    LastBestPlace - February 01, 2013 7:11 am
    Why make it harder for folks to vote? I'm shocked by the idiocy and the level of corruption that ha overtaken the Republican Party. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.....
  14. elkguy
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    elkguy - February 01, 2013 5:08 am
    Anyone who lacks the ambition or intelligence to make sure they are registered to vote 4 days before the election shouldn't be voting anyway. If you allow all those idiots to register at the last minute you end up with stupid people running our government, like the White House now.
  15. bluehorizons
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    bluehorizons - February 01, 2013 1:33 am
    I am appalled by the bigoted, racist, sexist and anti-Anglo American comments that are portrayed by the comments on attack. Sounds like you guys should start a club. Maybe you be need ta have youwr selves a hanging!
  16. FribbyWilliams
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    FribbyWilliams - February 01, 2013 1:08 am
    Myself, I honestly don't want people voting who can't think enough about the who process and keep care of the business to register by the previous Friday. Myself, I am constantly bombarded with people who are out there getting people to register which is fanatic (I registered to vote 25+ years ago at the fair the summer before I turned 18 which happened to be election day. I was a kid and figured out how to register and today there are even more opportunities available. Have some pride and respect for the honor of being allowed to vote and get registered so that the election officials can do the job at hand on election day.
  17. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - February 01, 2013 1:06 am
    I have been voting since I was old enough too, I have never missed an election, if I don't receive my absentee ballot in a timely manner I am on the phone finding out what is going on, how hard is that? Every person that registers to vote is told that you will not need to re register unless you move or neglect to vote in a presidential election. If you are new to the state you should be taking care of business and not waiting until the last minute where you become a burden on pre registered voters by jamming up the lines and causing hours of waiting and inconvenience to seniors, handicap and people that took care of business. You have approximately 730 days between election cycles and I fail to see where 727 days to get registered to vote is going to oppress voters. Prior to 2006 we never had problems with voter suppression and you had to be registered 30 days prior to election day.
  18. ambiguous genitalia
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    ambiguous genitalia - January 31, 2013 10:53 pm
    If there wasn't actual voter fraud, not just potential voter fraud involved, this wouldn't be an issue, would it?
  19. John P Weber
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    John P Weber - January 31, 2013 8:44 pm
    As a long time registered independent voter, i find election day registration to be a joke. Since in this state you can register online and all, there is no reason to have election day registration. For those who dont have a computer or internet access, try something simple. Calling your local elections office to see if they can mail you the registration ballot and they could tell you even how t oget to the courthouse to pivk it up in person. And for those who are simply to lazy to bother to d o this, you wouldn't have the energy anyway to put your smartphne down and go vote anyway. .
  20. smarterthanwalter
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    smarterthanwalter - January 31, 2013 7:06 pm
    Once again the Republican Party shows its true colors. If you are not white, wealthy,male or a hillbilly, they don't have room for you. They truly are the party of NO. No answers. No tolerance. No imagination. No inclusion. No common sense. No future. Get the VETO brand out!
  21. PK67
    Report Abuse
    PK67 - January 31, 2013 7:02 pm
    I found it hopeful to see long lines of people who waited for hours to vote.
  22. The_Boneshackler
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    The_Boneshackler - January 31, 2013 6:53 pm
    We need to restrict voting to white male landowners just like our founding fathers intended.
  23. JacksonB
    Report Abuse
    JacksonB - January 31, 2013 5:47 pm
    One of the most important things we do in this country, is to vote, it requires responsibility and diligence, it is not an attempt to disenfranchise anyone, it is pushing the fact you need to be responsible with this right.
  24. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - January 31, 2013 5:17 pm
    In a close election, like the Tester Rehberg race, 2% is actually significant. The GOP knows this and so they continue their nationwide suppression effort. If you cant win on the issues..then rig the vote and keep the voters who might vote against you away from the ballot box. No one should vote for these "god fearing, gun loving" clowns. Ever. They are a disgrace. Hopefully Bulloch vetos this garbage.
  25. dsrobins
    Report Abuse
    dsrobins - January 31, 2013 5:01 pm
    It's truly amazing how the Republicans persist in their feeble and largely unsuccessful efforts at nationwide voter suppression. Fortunately, we will have a Democratic Governor who will surely veto this misbegotten effort. Did Brian Schweitzer leave his VETO branding iron in the office? Let's hope so as it surely will get more use later this year.
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