With the 63rd legislative session in full swing, it is important to remind your local legislators that you enjoy your right to vote – and that you elected them to office under Montana’s current election laws.
Since becoming your secretary of state in 2009, I have fought to protect your right to register and to vote through Election Day without having to jump over unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. Bills to eliminate Election Day voter registration, restrict the identification requirements for voting and generally make it harder for Montanans to cast a ballot go against your fundamental right to help shape a government by and for the people.
Supporters of careless election bills argue that administrative workloads and long lines at the polls are justifiable reasons to deny eligible Montanans their right to vote. I say Montana elections are for the voters. If folks are willing to go down to the election office and wait in line to register to vote on Election Day, then the government shouldn’t deny them that right.
Voters across the state use Election Day registration. Since late registration was implemented in 2006, 28,329 Montanans have used it to register to vote on Election Day. These are responsible and hardworking Montanans – grandparents, mothers, fathers and young adults – who either were unable to register to vote early or who thought they already were registered to vote when they showed up at the polls. Rolling back the registration deadline would make it impossible for these eligible Montanans to vote on Election Day.
Facts are a hard thing to ignore, yet we continue to face those who use unfounded and vague allegations of voter fraud as a defense for attempting to suppress voters. The Post-Election Audit Act proves that Montana’s elections are accurate. It affirms each federal election cycle that the ballot count completed by the vote-tabulating equipment matches that of the post-election recount in which ballots are recounted by hand. A hand count of ballots that matches a machine count is hard to argue with, and it provides overwhelming proof that counties are doing their job accurately.
Elections are hard work and sometimes there are longer wait times on Election Day, but we don’t shorten the lines by denying Montanans their right to vote. The solution is to give counties the resources they need to more effectively manage the multitude of duties they face both before and on Election Day.
I am optimistic that great work can be accomplished this legislative session as long as Montanans stay involved in the process. Contact your legislators and remind them why you elected them to serve. Call on their good judgment and ask that they join the fight in protecting current election laws, as they ensure your right to continue to register and vote in elections that are accessible, secure and accurate.
Linda McCulloch is Montana’s secretary of state and chief elections officer. She is currently serving her second term in office.