Bill to end Montana's same-day voter registration draws opposition

2013-01-14T17:00:00Z 2013-01-31T16:32:46Z Bill to end Montana's same-day voter registration draws oppositionBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Missoulian State Bureau

HELENA – A bill to end voter registration on the Friday before Election Day drew widespread opposition Monday from the state’s chief election official and groups representing Indians, disabled people, women, seniors, union members and others.

In all, 20 people testified against House Bill 30 by Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman, while two people spoke in favor of it. It would end voter registration at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, which is the next Tuesday.

The House State Administration Committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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

Republicans have tried to reverse the law ever since, while Democrats have defended it. In 2011, the GOP-controlled House and Senate passed a similar bill, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat.

Washburn and two supporters contended ending same-day voter registration would make it easier for election officials to do their jobs on Election Day and prevent potential fraud.

“I believe the integrity of the voter polling day is being challenged,” Washburn said. “It’s kind of like a zoo-ish atmosphere.”

In response to a question later, he said, “After watching a number of elections, yes, I suspect there is fraud.”

Mary Beveridge of Helena said she started the Montana Integrity Project, recruiting and training 300 volunteer poll watchers.

“What we saw at the polls was that there was a lot of chaos, there was a lot of confusion and there was a lot of long lines,” she said, adding, “The voters of Montana should have the expectations of efficient and professional elections.”


Opponents disputed the fraud allegations.

They said same-day registration helps a number of people vote, including those who have recently moved and those who thought they had registered when they obtained their driver’s licenses but learned in some cases they didn’t. It also has benefited students, seniors, rural people, seniors, disabled people and Native Americans register late, if necessary, so they can cast their ballots, advocates said.

McCulloch, the state’s chief election official, said those who register on Election Day aren’t procrastinators.

“If you’ve ever relocated, you know that registering to vote is the last thing on your mind between packing and unpacking, forwarding your mail, paying your bills, starting a new job or enrolling your kids in school,” she said.

Dustin Monroe, executive of Western Native Voice, a group formed to get out the Native American vote, urged the committee to reject the bill. In 2012, he said, some 6,300 American Indians were registered to vote.

“Without late registration options, these people’s voices would not be heard,” Monroe said. “Disenfranchisement tactics have been used countless times.”

People with disabilities or their family members often have to travel for medical care, said Beth Brenneman of Disability Rights Montana.

“Your health care services don’t respect any calendar,” she said. “Thank goodness, we’ve had the fail-safe of Election Day registration.”

During the question-and-answer period, Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, asked Washburn who he thought should vote.

“The person that has a Montana driver’s license, the person that pays taxes in Montana, the person that actually resides here in Montana, that’s who should actually be voting.” Washburn said.

Asked who shouldn’t be voting, Washburn said: “The people that have summer homes, weekend homes; the 100,000 students that are here that don’t have Montana driver’s licenses, that don’t have any identification other than theirs at the college, who by the way have to wait one year to become a Montana resident in order to get resident tuition.”

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.

(17) Comments

  1. gunner2
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    gunner2 - January 15, 2013 2:57 pm

    Republicans are the ones at work trying to keep their small businesses afloat in this stagnant economy and atmosphere of oppressive regulations. Democrats are the ones that sit around dreaming up funding schemes to keep all the "Julias" beholden to the government from cradle to grave.

  2. Drummer
    Report Abuse
    Drummer - January 15, 2013 2:30 pm

    A well informed voter is also a responsible person, and would be sure to be registered well before the election. It is as important as obtaining your drivers license, insuring your vehicle, and all the others issues relating to a new move, registering for college etc. If a person is only going to be frivolous in casting their vote and taking this privilege for granted, they would be better off in not voting. This is not a bar-room experience where you crack peanuts open and cast the shells on the floor. People have died for us to be able to exercise this freedom. Please be thoughtful, informed, and respectful. I notice that the article does not include the number of people who have called, written, or e-mailed this committee. People do want our election process to be honest and a system of honor.

  3. singletrackm1nd
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    singletrackm1nd - January 15, 2013 11:02 am

    According to our founding fathers, only white men have the right to vote. The world has moved beyond your narrow narrow view.

  4. singletrackm1nd
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    singletrackm1nd - January 15, 2013 10:59 am

    How about a requirement that people holding public office in MT be able to count? There are less that 50,000 TOTAL enrolled college students in MT. Over half of those students are MT residents. I'm not real good at math, but that's somewhere south of 100,000.

  5. DAarsvald
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    DAarsvald - January 15, 2013 10:49 am

    I don't understand why there are some who wish to prevent students from voting in the city/state where they go to school. Most students will reside in that state for four or more years. Why shouldn't they have a voice in their local community? They work, pay taxes, buy things at local stores, drive on local roads, and in general have just as much of a vested interest in that town as any other voter. These are not just "out of staters" looking to ruin local elections and make the poll workers job more difficult. Mr. Washburn, from the article, does not seem to understand how Montana residency and "in state tuition" work or why we have them. We require a year of 6 credits or less to establish residency because the federal government lets states discriminate between in-state and out of state students when it comes to tuition. It is a good way to subsidize the tuition of in-state students that have established Montana as a home and attract quality out of state students with (seemingly large) scholarships. It has nothing to do with voting or drivers licenses, nor should it.

  6. AARGH
    Report Abuse
    AARGH - January 15, 2013 10:08 am

    According to our founding fathers, only Land owners have the right to vote.. You know... those who really have stake in the game? that's the way it should be! Okay, now all you liberals, let's hear your complaints about fairness.

  7. Barak Nobama
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    Barak Nobama - January 15, 2013 7:07 am

    Yeah, we wouldn't want people to show personal responsibility would we? #sarcasm. The only voters being disenfranchised are the dead voters who overwhelmingly vote democratic.

  8. Got concrete
    Report Abuse
    Got concrete - January 15, 2013 6:42 am
    Now Sally, the people I saw inundating the polling places with last minute registrations this last cycle were college kids. They do that so they can get out of state tuition breaks and still influence local politics.
    And Rush is on 101.5 FM now as well as 1290 AM and on the internet at 1290's FB page and website! And you can get his 24/7 package online! No more sitting around the radio...We got JOBS!!
  9. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - January 15, 2013 4:32 am
    Listen to what Washburn said in response to a question. He wants to disenfranchise all who do not pay taxes or have a Montana Drivers license. Basically what this slug is saying is anyone who does not fit my narrow view of the way life should be should not be voting. You right wing nuts can spin that any way you want but that is his quote. I agree people should be responsible and think about voting before election day. I also know the reality of the world and understand that is not the case with many in the public. I always have loved Montana for being so open about trying to get people to the polls. If your so concerned about the chaos at the polls Washburn, you could just as easily fund for additional workers and procedures to ensure smooth voting and make election day for officials if that is your real concern...which it is not, it is that Jon Tester was reelected.
  10. Nan
    Report Abuse
    Nan - January 15, 2013 12:01 am
    We had a wonderful, patriotic leader that educated us on voter fraud and the machine that was used to count absentee ballots and warned of same day registration. Patty Lovaas was a wonderfully informed and educated person on voter fraud. Please people, educate yourselves and help to carry on Patty's work and help to stop the voter fraud that happens in the state of Montana and Missoula. The 650 absentee ballot counting machine is only one of the culprits. You should see how this works if you think that absentee ballots are counted fairly and counted as folks vote. It does not! There is a group of conservative folks in Missoula that can assist in teaching you. I have attended some of the meetings and was in shock and awe after what I heard and saw. Same day registration is just another of the culprits.
  11. The_Boneshackler
    Report Abuse
    The_Boneshackler - January 14, 2013 11:03 pm,_Voter_Rights,_and_Federal_Power
  12. The_Boneshackler
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    The_Boneshackler - January 14, 2013 11:02 pm
    The lawbreaking East Coast Billionaire front group 'American Tradition Partnership' prevailed here. They were able to buy some seats in the Legislature by breaking the Montana campaign finance laws that still stood, and now the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has some loyal lackeys that can push their nationwide agenda to disenfranchise poor/dark-skinned/student voters, gut environment laws, bust the unions, drive wages even lower, eliminate the taxation of the wealthy, and to privatize the schools, the infrastructure, public land, and anything else that can be rented back to the masses for the profit of the Oligarchs.
  13. sofaking tired of the GOP
    Report Abuse
    sofaking tired of the GOP - January 14, 2013 9:15 pm
    What conservative super pac or group do you work for? This backward idiot state has had a budget surplus the last few years with a Dem governor. How is your state doing?
  14. idiot state
    Report Abuse
    idiot state - January 14, 2013 6:26 pm
    Oh, sure. Just keep it real loose and sloppy-heck-why do voters even have to register? For sure man, keep the unions in power in that state. Keep it the backward, low income, idiot state that it is..
  15. sportscaster
    Report Abuse
    sportscaster - January 14, 2013 5:14 pm

    I second the motion.Whether or not fraud occurs because of same-day registration, the odds are better it can. There's no reason RESPONSIBLE people can't take care of this before election day.

  16. sallymander
    Report Abuse
    sallymander - January 14, 2013 3:24 pm

    Republicans hate same day registration because most of the people who use it vote democratic. Reason these people wait to the last day is they have to work for a living and don't have the time, unlike most republicans who sit around all day listening to AM radio and Rush Limbaugh.

  17. gunner2
    Report Abuse
    gunner2 - January 14, 2013 1:08 pm

    Voting rights are not being infringed. Waiting until the day of the election is just lazy and irresponsible. When you know you're moving, vote absentee.

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