WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Sept. 29, Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG) and the Montana Federation of Public Employees filed a federal lawsuit challenging anti-voter provisions of Montana voting law, House Bill 892, for allegedly violating the U.S. Constitution.
The pro-voting organizations specifically bring claims against provisions of H.B. 892 that prohibit eligible voters who wish to register in Montana from “purposefully” remaining registered in another jurisdiction and impose criminal penalties and burdensome fines on those who intentionally or inadvertently violate this provision. The plaintiffs also challenge a provision of the law that requires a person who was previously registered to vote in another county or state to provide their previous registration information when completing the Montana voter registration application. The lawsuit notes that those who unintentionally fail to fill out this information on the state’s voter registration application could also be subject to criminal liability.
According to the lawsuit, while H.B. 892 ostensibly targets “double voting” by effectively requiring voters who seek to register in Montana to de-register elsewhere, it actually imposes vague language and unclear standards that threaten to subject voters to criminal penalties if they unintentionally or unknowingly violate H.B. 892 by remaining registered in another location.
The pro-voting plaintiffs assert that the law fails to define what it means for a voter to “purposefully” remain registered in another jurisdiction outside of Montana. “It is unclear whether voters must notify election officials in other jurisdictions and take affirmative action to deregister (and then confirm deregistration) before submitting registration applications in Montana,” the complaint states.
The complaint also points out that throughout the legislative process leading up to the enactment of H.B. 892 in May 2023, some Montana legislators raised the fact that the law “did not actually allay its stated concern with double voting and was effectively redundant given the safeguards already contained in Montana’s election code.”
MontPIRG and the Montana Federation of Public Employees allege that the challenged provisions of H.B. 892 are overly vague and violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process. The plaintiffs also claim that the challenged provisions burden the right to vote under the First and 14th Amendment and are unconstitutionally overbroad. MontPIRG and the Montana Federation of Public Employees ask the court to block the enforcement of the challenged provisions.