WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last night, the Montana Supreme Court reinstated two previously blocked voter suppression laws while an appeal challenging the laws moves forward. This means that House Bill 176, which ends Election Day registration, and Senate Bill 169, which creates strict new voter ID requirements, will be in place for the state’s June primary elections. Two other previously-blocked laws — House Bill 530, which bans ballot collection, and House Bill 506, which prohibits election officials from mailing ballots to new voters who will be eligible to vote on Election Day but are not yet 18 — remain blocked for upcoming elections.
In early April, a state trial court judge granted a preliminary injunction in Montana Democratic Party v. Jacobsen that temporarily blocked four challenged voter suppression laws enacted in 2021 in Montana. In temporarily blocking them, the judge found that the laws are likely to impose undue burdens on the right to vote, particularly for students and Native American communities, and that some of the laws likely treat different classes of voters unequally. However, the state immediately appealed this decision to the Montana Supreme Court and asked it to reinstate the two laws ending Election Day registration and creating new voter ID restrictions. The Montana Supreme Court agreed with the state that, since these laws were in place for 2021 elections, pausing the preliminary injunction and reinstating the two laws “would cause less voter confusion and disruption of election administration” and best maintain the status quo. It’s important to note that this decision does not decide the merits of the preliminary injunction itself nor speak to the constitutionality of the challenged laws; as the state Supreme Court noted, “the merits of the preliminary injunction are to be determined after full consideration of the issues on appeal.”