WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, July 27, a Montana state court judge struck down House Bill 506 — a suppressive voting law that prohibited the mailing of ballots to new voters who will be eligible to vote on Election Day but are not yet 18 — for violating the Montana Constitution. In the consolidated lawsuit Montana Democratic Party v. Jacobsen, the judge ruled in favor of one set of plaintiffs (Montana Youth Action, Forward Montana Foundation and Montana Public Interest Research Group) after finding that H.B. 506 “severely interferes” with the right to vote for Montanans who turn 18 in the month before an election by only allowing them to vote in person and not by any other means (including mail-in and absentee voting) that are available to all other eligible voters. By striking down H.B. 506, the court allows voters in the state who turn 18 by Election Day to vote absentee in future elections.
In addition to permanently blocking the enforcement of H.B. 506, the judge denied Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen’s (R) motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ claims with respect to three other suppressive voting laws: House Bill 176, which eliminates Election Day registration; Senate Bill 169, which changes voter identification laws and makes it more difficult to vote with a student ID and House Bill 530, which bans paid ballot collection and curtails other forms of ballot return assistance. This means that the claims regarding these three laws brought by the Montana Democratic Party and other voting rights advocates in a lawsuit against the secretary of state will go to trial on Aug. 15. During the trial, the court will hear the arguments against these three laws in full and ultimately issue a judgment on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims.