Montana Supreme Court Strikes Down Four Voter Suppression Laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today in a sweeping 4-3 decision ahead of the 2024 elections, the Montana Supreme Court struck down four major voter suppression laws.  

The laws — House Bill 176House Bill 530, House Bill 506  and Senate Bill 169 — which eliminated Election Day registration, banned paid ballot collection and curtailed other forms of ballot return assistance, prohibit the mailing of ballots to new voters who will be eligible to vote on Election Day but are not yet 18  and made it more difficult to vote with a student ID, respectively, were struck down for violating the state’s constitution. 

The opinion issued earlier today held that the Montana Constitution “affords greater protection of the right to vote than the United States Constitution” and struck down the laws which stood to disproportionately impact young voters, Native American voters and voters with disabilities. 

Originally filed in 2021 in response to the Republican-controlled Legislature passing these voter suppression laws, the Montana Democratic Party, Western Native Voice and Montana Youth Action each brought lawsuits challenging the suppressive measures. These lawsuits were consolidated and eventually a trial court struck down the laws in September 2022. 

Today, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision holding that the law that curtailed ballot assistance discriminates against Native American voters writing “HB 530 takes away the only option to vote for a significant number of Native Americans living on reservations. Thus, it impermissibly interferes with the right to vote.” 

The court similarly found that the restrictions on student voting do not pass constitutional muster writing that excluding student IDs from the list of acceptable photo IDs “imposes a burden on student voting and the Secretary has not established that it is necessary for any legitimate government purpose, much less that it is more important than the right to vote. Nor is it a reasonable restriction of voter’s rights.” 

Regarding the law eliminating election day registration, the court held that the law  “impermissibly interferes with the right to vote.” The court further explained: “The record shows that more than 70,000 Montanans have utilized election day registration to vote since 2005 and that many electors would be disenfranchised without the availability of election day registration.” 

This decision is a major victory for Montana voters, specifically Native American, young voters and voters with disabilities who would have been adversely impacted by these laws. Thanks to the court’s decision, as voters head to the polls in 2024, they will not be subject to these restrictive voting laws. 

Read the opinion here

Learn more about the case here.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the court struck down three laws instead of four laws total. This story and headline have been updated to reflect that the court also struck down House Bill 506.