Montana House committee votes to end Election Day voter registration

2013-01-25T20:45:00Z 2013-01-31T16:32:46Z Montana House committee votes to end Election Day voter registrationBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau

HELENA – On a party-line vote Friday, Republicans on a House committee approved a bill to end Election Day voter registration, cutting it off at 5 p.m. on the previous Friday.

The House State Administration Committee voted 11-7 for House Bill 30 by Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman. All Democrats on the panel opposed it.

The bill now goes to the House floor for debate.

Also Friday, the committee voted 10-8 to table House Bill 108, also by Washburn. It would have required voters to show a photo identification to vote and provided free state ID cards. Three Republicans crossed party lines and voted with the committee’s Democrats to table the bill.

In supporting Washburn’s HB30 to end Election Day voter registration, Republican legislators said the bill was to assist county election officials who have been overwhelmed by people registering to vote and then casting ballots on Election Day.

Rep. Liz Bangerter, R-Helena, said she based her vote for HB30 on a conversation she had with the Lewis and Clark County election supervisor, who told her ending same-day voter registration wasn’t about voter fraud.

“It’s about letting county employees do their job to the best of their ability around Election Day,” she said.

Bangerter also said people wanting to vote have obligations, too.

“I believe strongly that voting is a right, and with all rights come responsibilities,” she said. “Sometimes those responsibilities include that you are registered to vote in a timely manner.”

Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, disagreed.

“Cleaning up election laws is good,” she said. “And encouraging more people to vote is good. Encouraging and making it easier for the elderly to vote, for low-income and young first-time voters, for people who work two jobs and register on Election Day, for minorities, these are good things for our democracy.

“Changing the rules and making it harder is not good for our democracy.”

A 2005 Montana law allows people to register to vote up until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Since then, 28,329 people have registered and voted on Election Day, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said.

Rep. Clarena Brockie, D-Harlem, said about 8,000 registered on Election Day in November 2012, including about 1,100 Native Americans.

“I think the wonderful thing about being American is to vote,” she said.

Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, said his election administrator also said the bill isn’t about addressing fraud.

“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,” Hertz said. “I don’t think we’re going to lose voters. If we cut it off on Friday, people are going to know that deadline. There are still a lot of groups out there who go out and help people get registered. They’re just going to have to do it a few days earlier.”

Montana is one of eight states with same-day voter registration.

“I appreciate that we’re one of those eight states because in those eight states we know that every single person that wants to vote is going to have an opportunity to vote,” Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, said. “There isn’t going to be a single person who because of earlier deadlines or other restrictions isn’t going to have access to vote. And that’s what this bill is about. It’s a fail-safe.”

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Pat Ingraham, R-Thompson Falls, a former election administrator, said that when the public sees confusion and long lines caused by voter registration on Election Day, it undermines the process.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at

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

(29) Comments

  1. sonofbrutalbob
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    sonofbrutalbob - January 27, 2013 5:22 pm
    If they cherish voting they should register before election day.
  2. sonofbrutalbob
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    sonofbrutalbob - January 27, 2013 5:20 pm
    If you are not sharp enough to register three days earlier maybe you should not be guiding our state and nation. with your choices.
  3. Tracker
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    Tracker - January 27, 2013 3:09 pm
    Mr. Badenoch, I just asked for your data for stating as fact that traditionally, it is the elderly, students, the sick and disabled who register to vote on Election Day. You gave me a lecture on our system. I fully agree that voter fraud is not "the issue." I believe the election department here does an astoundingly good job.

    My experience with Election-Day registrants does not align with your observations. You presented as fact that vulnerable segments of society are those who register on election day. I asked for the basis of that. Instead, I got a speech.
  4. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 27, 2013 12:08 pm
    BJG1 I am glad that you served your county by being an election official, I am also pleased to hear that you had no concern about party affiliation. It sounds that with the limited number of people at your polling station that same day voter registration had no overall adverse effect, which is good but look at the major polling offices around the state where pre registered voters had 3 and 4 hour waits to cast their ballot because of the enormous numbers of people that didn't pre register. This tells me that same day voter registration is not an efficient process, making seniors and handicapped people suffer in line for hours turns voting into more of a punishment than pleasure in doing their civic duty. So can you explain to me how this is fair for people who were prepared, have to suffer these extended waits to vote, keeping the election officials working hard all day and into the wee hours of the morning. Were you out of your polling station at an acceptable time? Did you work until 4 in the morning? Is it right to force other people to do what you don't want to have to do yourself? How is having only 727 days out of 730 days to register to vote for the next election cycle an attempt to suppress the vote? It should be about making the voting process easier and faster for all people involved.
  5. Geoff Badenoch
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    Geoff Badenoch - January 26, 2013 11:12 pm
    Voting on Election Day is for the most part an orderly process in our County and State. Fraud simply is not the issue. Most voters do complete the registration process, take the time to learn what is expected at the polling place, and more and more voters are using absentee/mailing ballots. The latter is something we have figured out how to work to make voting more convenient.

    It's true that everyone with an income is required to file income tax returns. If you don't, there is a penalty under the law. That isn't the case with registering to vote, which may be why some people let that slip in life's priorities. It would be useful to know with some certainty, I think, why people don't have this relatively simple part of their lives sorted out.

    Not EVERY elderly person, student, or disabled person has a problem with registration. I am only recounting what I saw in my experience as an election judge. But not every person with registration problems falls in those categories, either. The point I am trying to make is whether someone with a registration problem should be denied the Constitutional right to vote on Election Day. I think not, and I acknowledge that some disagree with that.

    I agree with those who want voters to be more educated and aware of issues and candidates. More information and understanding is better than less. But I don't think we need to revert to the days where voters were asked to pass a test before they were given a ballot. What if a voter is well informed about only one or two issues or one race? If they haven't mastered the whole ticket, should we deny them the vote on the issues or candidates they want to vote on?

    At the end of the day, our democratic republic rests on a free press and free speech to put issues and candidates in the public realm fairly, completely and honestly. It rests on citizen participation supporting candidates and issues. It rests on citizens voting. For that reason, I want more of my fellow citizens voting on Election Day than fewer. I would rather have the candidate or issue I support lose in a high turnout election than win an election where voters who wanted to participate were turned away or didn't care enough to vote.

    I accept that others disagree with that, and I am sorry I am unable to convince them to see it the way I do.
  6. BJG1
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    BJG1 - January 26, 2013 10:49 pm
    I worked at the polls on election day, and although we did not have very many people who were not registered come in, we did have a few. And they were darn happy when they found out that they could register and vote. It was important to them and, we as election workers, didn't give a hoot if they were R or D, we were just glad that they wanted to do their civic duty and vote. In the last few elections the losing party seems to want to make it difficult to impossible for anyone except their supporters to vote. Why is that? Maybe they should take a long hard look at their positions on governance. Let's make it easier for people to vote same day registration and voting should be the law of the land in this country! People will remember what party is trying to disenfranchise them and they will eventually lose in the end. The party needs to wake up before they are knocked out.
  7. Tracker
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    Tracker - January 26, 2013 1:53 pm
    Mr. Badenoch, I always appreciate your comments here, your willingness to use your name, and mostly, your service to the community. This time, though, I disagree with you. What is your evidence that Election-Day registrants are the elderly, students, the sick and disabled? The photo here of Election-Day registrants belies that idea, as does my experience working on Election Day. The convenience of absentee voting also contradicts the idea that people must suffer long lines and the burdens of same-day registration because they have no other options. In fact, they have nearly six months to register before the primary election and can then vote at home when they wish.

    Your argument is simply illogical to me. The elderly, students, the sick and disabled are expected to file their income taxes by April 15, just like everyone else. They anticipate that deadline and comply with it. It seems rather insulting to imagine that these people are too incompetent to manage their lives, so elections must be complicated and results protracted because of them.
  8. wes d
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    wes d - January 26, 2013 1:08 pm
    HA! Republicans are so bitter about the last election they'll try anything to disenfranchise voters/our democracy. It didn't work last time! If your argument is that you hate waiting in long lines because of irresponsible people, be pro-active and vote by mail! Looks like our Republican dominated legislature is at it again, wasting time on frivolous issues, the only thing Republicans are good at these days.
  9. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 26, 2013 10:52 am
    Geoff please post the ph numbers they can call for the free rides, I am glad that you volunteered to shuttle people to the polls but unfortunately your act of kindness is miniscule compared to what the Mountain Line can accomplish for the elderly, less fortunate and handicapped. The college students have many options that other people don't have, they have a polling place on campus that is easily accessible they can vote at or they can choose to vote by absentee ballot which would relieve the congestion and long lines down at the fairgrounds and make it easier and quicker for the election officials to get results posted in a timely manner. I have tried to lay this out as simple as I could so you don't try to twist the truth and demonize my comments. I am all for voting, we need to help those that need the help the most, we need to improve efficiency so more people can vote, that is how democracy should work.
  10. DonaldM
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    DonaldM - January 26, 2013 10:18 am
    I recall Gov. S. openly bragging at a convention of Democrat trial lawyers(who yelled and screamed in approval) at his comments shortly after J. Tester was first elected to the Senate about how he(the Gov) had fraudulently involved himself in several activities to assure Testers election. He was very proud of himself.

    Later, he said he was just joking and no one in the State seriously investigated that claim. Not the Democrat AG, and not the Democrat newspapers in the State(which is all of the major ones). They asked those the Gov had implicated if they really had done what he said; they said they hadn't, and the issue was closed. Some investigation!

    You are correct that there is no proof because those responsible for collecting proof refuse to do so. So, I can't prove it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

    There can't be enough legitimate, if any, cases of the sort to which you allude to justify the possibility of extensive electoral fraud by keeping election day registration available.

    Doesn't the State of Montana have a residency requirement for voting? If it doesn't, it should.
  11. idiot state
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    idiot state - January 26, 2013 8:34 am
    Frankly, if you're too disorganized and/or stupid and/or busy and or/forgetful to register prior to election day, then..maybe you shouldn't be voting? How about this? You're too busy or dumb to remember to register, so how about taking off this election cycle and spending some time learning about the voting process in America (and the responsibility that comes with the right) and/or learning time management or cleaning up your life so you can do things right and on time? And not be a pain in the neck to those of us who're smart enough to realize there's an election in Novemember and we'd better make sure we're ready to vote. Self centered fools. America spends too much time bending over backwards to accomodate frauds, crooks and idiots.
  12. RPT
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    RPT - January 26, 2013 8:22 am
    People ( from either party...young or old ) who are to lazy or stupid not to take the few minutes it takes to get registered ahead of time shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
    This isn’t about trying to suppress anyone’s right to vote.. It’s about forcing people to get their act together... I’m all for it.
  13. Roger
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    Roger - January 26, 2013 7:56 am
    So somebody just moved here on election day, and you believe it's a good thing for him to vote on local issues? Unbelievable (almost). That's just a tough break, and he should get over it.
  14. Roger
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    Roger - January 26, 2013 7:53 am
    More people voting who are too dumb to register prior to election day is not a good thing.
  15. Geoff Badenoch
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    Geoff Badenoch - January 26, 2013 12:50 am
    Gerry, you know that anyone who wants a free ride to the polls on election day can get a ride by calling for one. In years past I have volunteered to take dozens of elderly and other carless people to vote. Others do so as well. That is what is called a fact.
    And so what if the students got shuttled to vote? They are citizens entitled to vote. What's the problem with that? More voters voting. Democracy at work. Do you hate democracy?
  16. Geoff Badenoch
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    Geoff Badenoch - January 26, 2013 12:45 am
    Don, your comments here generally rely on fact and statistics you care about and want us to consider. Do you have any statistics that show how big a problem voter fraud is in Montana? I believe it is negligible. You are arguing from assertion and unsubstantiated anecdotal information. Frankly, I have come to expect more from you. Even when I disagree with you, I have to acknowledge your documented information. Here you have let us down.
    There is another reason or two for having election day registration that I can provide based on first person experience as an election judge. Someone recently moved from another state and the hassles involved with that eclipsed voter registration. A voting district or precinct changed and the voter was not aware of it. An absentee ballot at the last federal election didn't make it to the Elections Office and the voter was stricken from the role.
    I will grant that I wish people were more attentive to voter registration. I get that. But if the complexities of life are such that they fail to do so, should we punish them by disenfranchising them when there is a solution in the form of Same Day Voting? Besides, standing in long lines to vote is punishment enough...
  17. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 25, 2013 9:40 pm
    Voter suppression is jacking up the lines with procrastinators that keep lines backed up for hours and many people from voting, why bus students from the university where they have a polling place over to the fairgrounds (most all students are youthful and able bodied) when it is the seniors, natives and the poor that really need the help. Think realistically and help those who really need it and quit worrying about which party to help.
  18. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 25, 2013 9:32 pm
    Jeff you know the traditional "same day voters" are college students and not the seniors, Did the seniors get free rides to go to the fairgrounds to vote, i think not but the university shuttled students back and forth all night long. Be a little more honest.
  19. GaryTinkSanders
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    GaryTinkSanders - January 25, 2013 9:25 pm
    @robbie, do you have 3 to 4 hours to stand in line to vote on election day because some people have to procrastinate, do you feel it is fair to keep election officials working all day and through the night because some people have to procrastinate? How do you think the elderly fair standing on their feet for 3 to 4 hours with no place to sit down. This will keep the procrastinators from causing a log jam for everyone else.
  20. DonaldM
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    DonaldM - January 25, 2013 9:21 pm
    There is only one reason for election day registration; and that is to facilitate voter fraud; which is important for Democrats. Having more voters is not important; having informed voters is. Election day registrants are the uninformed, uninterested, and easily manipulated, and/or bought.
  21. Roger
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    Roger - January 25, 2013 8:30 pm
    Yeah - more people voting who lack the intelligence to register prior to election day. It's discouraging to read a comment like yours and others who demand that such an unreasonable policy be continued. This bill should be passed, and people can register BEFORE election day or not vote. If they really want to vote, they will register before election day. Otherwise, tough break - it's their own fault.
  22. MontanaNative1ed7
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    MontanaNative1ed7 - January 25, 2013 8:14 pm
    The current legislature is busy deciding on our state gun. This session will be absolutely historical. We will have a state gun. According to Field and Stream not every state wants a state gun.

  23. MontanaNative1ed7
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    MontanaNative1ed7 - January 25, 2013 8:08 pm
    "I have always felt that MORE people voting (once) in elections is better than fewer people voting. I have always felt that voting was something that was typically cherished in our country, particularly by those who claim to be patriots." Geoff

    I agree!
  24. It's Just My Opinion
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    It's Just My Opinion - January 25, 2013 6:46 pm
    You may remember, but you will probably be to lazy after picking up your welfare check to register to vote before November 4th, 2014, so I'm not too worried.
  25. idiot state
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    idiot state - January 25, 2013 5:30 pm
    A good first step. What're the other 7 states that allow same day registration? Montana needs to clean up its act; its election results are always absurdly slow coming in (like some third world country) and its laws are loose, sloppy, careless and an open invitation to fraud. Voter ID is a good idea (the state can provide that for voters) too.
  26. Rob Tabish
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    Rob Tabish - January 25, 2013 4:28 pm
    what is it with the Republican Legislators? every session seems to bring out the lunatic fringe in every one of them. while it may seem silly to make ANY kind of point about this, it just seems to me that this one issue really wasn't an "issue" at all...they could have just as well left this one thing alone and actually put their pointy little heads together and found some kind of REAL problem they should be addressing....could this be a repeat of the last Legislative session, which turned into a major WASTE of time and taxpayer money?
  27. Geoff Badenoch
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    Geoff Badenoch - January 25, 2013 3:51 pm
    No one of either party believes or has stated they believe there is an issue of voter fraud this bill is meant to fix. It simply hasn't been proven to be a problem that demands attention..

    Who are the traditional "same day voters?" The elderly, who often get themselves to the wrong polling place when their precinct or ward boundaries change. Students. The sick or disabled. Is our democracy so weak we cannot take an extra measure to let these folks register and vote the same day? Are we stronger as a free people for sending our fellow citizens home from the polls without voting?

    Having served as an elections judge, I was always instructed to check my party affiliation at the door and assume the role of helping every legitimate voter cast a vote. It's not always easy and many of the people I helped with voting problems on Election Day were young parents, students, people with two or more jobs, or any number of challenges facing them that kept the voting registration act from rising to the top of the agenda before Election Day. There wasn't anyone of them I wanted to turn away from voting.

    I have always felt that MORE people voting (once) in elections is better than fewer people voting. I have always felt that voting was something that was typically cherished in our country, particularly by those who claim to be patriots. I thought that was one of the things our military men and women were fighting and dying for.

    It makes me discouraged as a citizen to see legislation like this arise from fearful, small-minded legislators. There are so many more pressing issues that need their attention, their reasoned understanding and their passionate debate.
  28. Mojoh
    Report Abuse
    Mojoh - January 25, 2013 3:47 pm
    While they (the R's) can say its not aimed at non-existent "voter fraud" it is in fact voter suppression, something every Repug also loves. Students, elderly, Native Americans, less well off? I wonder how those voters would lean. Any thumb on the scale is DE-reguier for these "patriots"
  29. Aberdeen
    Report Abuse
    Aberdeen - January 25, 2013 3:39 pm
    If you can't make potential voters believe in your political philosophy, dis-enfranchise them! Way to go Republicans - win at any cost, the end justifies the means - great demonstration of your version of Democracy at work! We WILL remember!
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