Montana Judge Blocks Four Voter Suppression Laws
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a state trial court judge in Montana temporarily blocked four voter suppression laws from being enforced as litigation continues. The ruling comes after a preliminary injunction hearing was held on March 10 in Montana Democratic Party v. Jacobsen, a consolidated lawsuit that includes Western Native Voice v. Jacobsen and Montana Youth Action v. Jacobsen. The plaintiffs in the consolidated case collectively sought to block four laws:
- House Bill 176 ends Election Day registration, an option that had been in place in Montana for 15 years;
- Senate Bill 169 narrows the list of eligible voter IDs (for example, while concealed carry permits count as an acceptable ID, student IDs must now be accompanied with another form of ID);
- House Bill 530 prohibits ballot collection efforts completed in exchange for a “pecuniary benefit” (financial compensation); and
- House Bill 506 prohibits election officials from mailing ballots to new voters who will be eligible to vote on Election Day but are not yet 18.
The judge blocked all four challenged laws while the lawsuit moves forward after finding that the plaintiffs would suffer harm absent a preliminary injunction. Following evidence presented during the hearing, the judge concluded that the plaintiffs are likely to prove that the challenged laws impose undue burdens on the right to vote, particularly for students and Native American communities, and some of the laws treat different classes of voters unequally. By eliminating crucial registration methods, imposing strict ID requirements, limiting ballot collection and making the voting process difficult for newly-of-age voters, the judge concluded that the state violated multiple provisions of the Montana Constitution without any justifiable reasons. In issuing a preliminary injunction today, the judge blocked the four laws until after a trial is held.