Montana Case Challenging Voter Suppression Laws Moves Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a state court judge entered an order denying a motion to dismiss claims in Montana Democratic Party v. Jacobsen, a lawsuit brought by the Montana Democratic Party (MDP) challenging three recently-passed voter suppression bills. Senate Bill 176 eliminates Election Day voter registration; Senate Bill 169 narrows eligible voter IDs, particularly limiting the use of student IDs; and House Bill 530 bans certain types of ballot assistance. The defendant in the case, Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, had sought to throw out claims relating only to S.B. 176 and S.B. 169. The case will now move forward in court as to all claims.

The court rejected the Montana secretary of state’s arguments that MDP did not have standing to challenge S.B. 176 and S.B. 169 because it had not shown it would suffer any injuries from the laws. The court found that MDP had standing to challenge the laws on behalf of itself and affected Montana voters and that MDP had shown it would be negatively affected by the laws. The secretary also unsuccessfully argued that the Montana Legislature had full discretion to restrict registration laws, to which the court replied that “just because the Legislature chose to enact election day registration and expand voting rights does not mean the Legislature can water down those rights without a review of the constitutionality of that action.” Finally, the court rejected the secretary’s assertion that Montana’s election laws couldn’t be litigated in court because they were shielded by the Elections Clause, which allows states to set rules regarding federal elections, finding the argument “unavailing.” 

Read the order here.