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Grade TL;DR

In 2021, the Montana State Legislature introduced a number of anti-voter bills, half of which passed. These bills included provisions putting a stop to same day registration, putting greater restrictions on voter IDs, putting restraints on executive action when it comes to elections, increasing poll watcher presence, and more. The onslaught of anti-voter legislation, upon implementation, would severely roll back voter access and commonsense security measures the state previously passed, which is why Montana received an F on this year’s scorecard.

Looking Back

Where Montana Started in 2020

  • Automatic Voter Registration: No
  • Online Voter Registration: No
  • Same-Day Registration: Yes
  • Restoration of Rights: Prison Disenfranchisement
  • Vote by Mail: No-Excuse
  • Electronic Registration Information Center Member: No
  • Early Voting Opportunities: In-Person Absentee
  • ID Requirements: ID Requested, but not Required

Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Montana as of 2020, we considered the state a middle tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other middle tier states.

How Our Tier Compares:

  • COVI (2020): 21st
  • EPI Score (2020): 36th
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 9/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): MEDIUM

2021: Two Years Ago

Legislative Action

Montana legislators introduced a host of anti-voter legislation during the 2021 session, and they succeeded in passing almost half of the laws they introduced. Many of the laws have since been found to violate Montana’s constitution.

Several of the most controversial anti-voter laws that passed were recently struck down by a Montana District Court.

  • H 176 attempts to end the state’s long-held practice of allowing same-day voter registration by closing “late registration” at noon the day before the election rather than at the close of polls.
  • S 169 revises existing ID requirements for voter registration. Individuals that do not provide a driver’s license number, state ID number, or the last four digits of their Social Security number must show photo ID to register to vote. Voters must also show ID to cast a ballot in person. Individuals that lack proper ID may cast a provisional ballot, but they must return to the election office by 5pm the day after the election to show an acceptable form of ID or show a non-photo ID and sign an affidavit affirming they lack proper ID.
  • H 506 clarifies that individuals may preregister to vote but they may not receive a ballot — including an absentee ballot — for any election until they are officially eligible to vote. Enforcement of this law is currently blocked by an injunction.
  • H 530 requires the secretary of state to create election security rules, issue an annual election security report, and create a rule that prohibits anyone from giving or receiving any benefit for returning a voter’s ballot or helping with ballot collection. Enforcement of this law is also currently blocked by a preliminary injunction.

The Legislature also passed several laws that are not currently subject to legal challenges.

  • H 429 prohibits the governor from altering election-related statutes during an emergency without the Legislature’s consent.
  • S 93 allows political parties to appoint poll watchers to monitor dropbox usage during mail ballot elections.
  • S 170 requires election administrators to conduct voter list maintenance on an annual basis rather than every two years.

2022: This Past Year

Legislative Action

The Montana Legislature meets biennially during odd-numbered years, therefore there was no session in 2022. Lawmakers ultimately rejected a request from more conservative members to convene a special session on “election integrity.”