There has been enough written — much of it in the national press — about Montana’s new restrictions on voting. These laws have been taken to court, and will be decided there. Meanwhile, we might reflect on how critical the right to vote is to our democracy and our lives.
Our form of government requires the participation of all its citizens. If we are not actively involved, those with more power or money (be they corporate or members of the government) will step into the breach. They can become strong enough to change the rules, and do what they want, regardless of the will of the people.
Montana has seen this before, in the days of the Copper Kings. These wealthy men owned newspapers, politicians, banks and police. They ran Montana to the extent that they could live extravagant lives above-ground, while workers toiled beneath, barely able to make enough money to feed their families. This was clearly not what the people wanted, but it took a long time, and many lives, to change. Considering our history, Montana, of all states, should protect its citizens’ right to vote.
Aside from this, voting empowers the people. We not only decide issues, but those in power learn that they must come to us for the votes they need. They simply have to keep us in mind.
If the courts do not reverse these laws, we will need to make voting as easy as we can, despite them. We will need to make sure people have access to the ID they need, and that they can make it to the polls. We will need to make sure people are able to mail in their ballots in time. And we will need to make sure people understand how critical it is that they vote.