WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new lawsuit filed Monday alleges that Montana’s recently-enacted voter suppression laws are part of a concerted effort to disenfranchise Native voters in the state. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of voting rights groups Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, as well as multiple tribes with reservations in the state.
The laws in question, House Bill 176 and House Bill 530, eliminate voter registration on Election Day and ban ballot collection by anyone who receives a “pecuniary benefit” from a voter by doing so. The law lacks a clear definition of “pecuniary benefit” and could be stretched to include in-home caretakers and community organizations, Democrats argue. The new ban could prohibit voting rights groups from helping to return ballots, a process that poses an especially heavy burden on reservations that are typically far away from post offices. Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote both run get-out-the-vote programs to help collect and return ballots from Native communities.
This is the second lawsuit Montana faces this year challenging its new voter suppression laws. In mid-April, the Montana Democratic Party sued over H.B. 176 and H.B. 530, as well as Senate Bill 169, which imposes new voter ID requirements that would disproportionately inconvenience students.