2013 MT Legislature

Jan 15, 2013 3:40 PM by Marnee Banks (marnee@kxlh.com)

Long election lines prompt bill to stop same-day voter registration

Long lines at the polls are prompting a Bozeman lawmaker to try and get rid of same-day voter registration in Montana.

In November, county election administrators in many Montana counties reported people stood in lines for hours waiting to vote, some of them were already registered and some were not.

Representative Ted Washburn (R - Bozeman) says election administrators were so swamped that asking them to register voters on election day is just too big of a burden.

"If anyone was to visit the election area, I believe the integrity of polling day is being challenged because they have to register provisional voters and ballots the same day they are trying to conduct voters at the polls," Washburn said. "It's kind of like a zoo-ish atmosphere."

Right now Montana voters can register to vote on election day. Washburn's bill, House Bill 30, would roll that back five days to the Friday before.

On Monday in the House Administration committee, over 20 people lined up to testify against the bill including Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (D). She says election administrators are trained to handle these situations.

The Montana Secretary of State's office reports during the 2012 general and primary elections, over 9,000 Montana voters registered on election day. McCulloch says she believes getting rid of same day voter registration would reduce voter turnout.

"Election day registrants aren't procrastinators. They are responsible and hardworking Montanans who vote in your elections. They know that their right to vote and register is protected under Montana law," McCulloch testified. "Are you willing to look them in the eye on election day and deny them their right to vote?"

Washburn and the two other supporters of the bill testified House Bill 30 would ensure that the people who are voting on election day are actually qualified to vote.

"There is no question there is fraud," Washburn said.

McCulloch says her office tracks voter fraud cases and there is no proof that same day voter registration leads to a corrupt elections process.

The House Administration will take action on the bill in the coming weeks and decide whether or not to send the bill to the House floor for a vote.

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