Thank God our election crew was free from same day voter registration this year! Sometimes legislation comes home to roost in a good way.
“Our crew” is the Lincoln County election team, which was blindsided with a snafu that led to organizing, at the very last minute on Election Day, a hand count of all ballots cast in the primary election, a process that then took three full days to complete. What an incredible extra burden same day registration would have been.
I never imagined when we began crafting election integrity bills that they would have such a positive impact so immediately. It was about two years ago, just after the 2020 primary election, that I began talking with Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen and other legislators about the ideas that became those election integrity bills.
I represent Senate District 1, which borders Idaho and Canada, and happens to coincide with Lincoln County’s borders. I was born in the long-gone hospital on Dewey Avenue in Eureka, and my parents were also raised in the Tobacco Valley. We like to compete hard but to play fair and square. That includes elections and voting procedures. We also like to figure out more efficient and better ways of doing things.
We saw unnecessary complications created by same day voter registration, so we found a simple fix: move the registration deadline back a bit. We also thought requiring photo ID could eliminate future problems, and we knew other problems could be avoided by cleaning voter rolls every year to remove people who were now deceased or had moved away.
Democrats fought these bills fiercely. I sponsored photo ID requirements, supported Rep. Sharon Greef’s registration day bill, and spoke in favor of Sen. Doug Kary’s bill on cleaning registration rolls. Democrats filed lawsuits to prevent the new laws from taking effect, but eventually the Montana Supreme Court allowed them to stand for this election. That was the right decision. The small change in registration deadline kept Lincoln County’s situation manageable when it could have been a complete mess. And the other reforms, especially voter ID, greatly improve Montanans’ confidence that our elections are free and fair. These new laws are working well and should be kept in place.