WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Sept. 21, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed a decision temporarily blocking the implementation of two voter suppression laws: House Bill 176, which eliminates Election Day voter registration, and Senate Bill 169, which implements strict ID requirements to vote. In April, a trial court granted a preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the voter suppression laws from being in effect. The state then appealed the decision as it pertained to H.B. 176 and S.B. 169 to the Montana Supreme Court, which paused the trial court’s decision and blocked the two laws while it decided the appeal.
Today, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed that two of the laws will remain blocked as litigation continues. The court stated that S.B. 169 and H.B. 176 will cause “an irreparable injury through the loss of a constitutional right to vote.” The court concluded that “the will of the people is expressed through their right to vote, and a healthy, participatory democracy depends on ensuring that as many people as possible vote for the people who represent them.” Ultimately, today’s decision is a relief for voters as the voter suppression laws will remain blocked while litigation continues.
However, the state Supreme Court’s decision today did not reach the actual merits of the laws being challenged. The state’s highest court was reviewing the trial court’s order granting a preliminary injunction, which does not touch on the merits — the actual substance of a legal dispute — and instead focuses on whether a law should be temporarily blocked to prevent harm to voters. Regarding the merits of the challenged laws, a trial was held before the trial court from Aug. 15-25, 2022. The judge is expected to rule on the merits of the two voter suppression laws (along with House Bill 530, which was temporarily blocked by the trial court in April and was not subject to the appeal to the Montana Supreme Court) in the near future.