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A Bozeman lawmaker told a House panel in Helena Wednesday that Montana is seen by some as "an easy place to pick up two Senate seats" and that out-of-state voters are swinging the state's elections.

"I believe the light should shine on the people that are trying to steal our votes here," Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman, told the House State Administration Committee. "I have witnessed busloads come in over the past 12 years to vote the last day. I have witnessed people who have told me they vote two places because they get mailed ballots from back home."

Washburn is sponsoring a bill he said would solve the problem by tightening requirements for voter registration.

As the law now reads, people can prove they are eligible to vote in Montana by showing bank statements, paychecks or similar documents. Washburn's bill, House Bill 152, would require people to present a Montana driver's license, Montana identification card or tribal photo ID to register to vote.

"Basically, there're three forms that are really proof you are a Montana citizen," he said.

Opponents of the bill said it addresses a problem that does not exist and will make it more difficult for people to register to vote, especially if they are elderly or disabled.

"Quite frankly, we just don't have voter fraud in Montana," Secretary of State Linda McCulloch told the committee. "Voting and participating in the election process is one of the most fundamental rights we enjoy as American citizens. There is no justification for making it harder for eligible Montanans to register and to vote."

She said Montana law complies with requirements of the Bush-era Help America Vote Act, which sought to prevent voter fraud, and said Washburn's bill went "above and beyond" those federal mandates unnecessarily.

The committee did not take any action on the bill Wednesday.

 

Daniel Person can be reached at dperson@dailychronicle.com or 582-2665.

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