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Responsive Gov’s Grade TL;DR

Once again the Montana Legislature introduced several anti-voter bills this past session. Overall, the Legislature passed less restrictive legislation than 2022’s string of anti-voter laws that were struck down by the courts. However, the Legislature did enact a private funding ban without providing any additional public funding for elections. Because the legislation passed last year was not as detrimental as 2022’s slate of bills, Montana received a C- on this year’s scorecard.

Looking Back

Where Montana Started at the Beginning of 2023

  • 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 2022, we considered the state a bottom tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2023 activity against other bottom tier states. Last year, Montana was considered a middle tier state.

How Our Tier Compares

  • COVI (2022): 34th
  • EPI Score (2020): 36th
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 9/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): MEDIUM

2023: This Past Year

Legislative Action

This past year the Montana Legislature scaled back its anti-voter legislation after last year’s aggressive attempts to enact additional restrictions. However, it did enact a ban on private funding for elections as well as several mixed pieces of legislation related to the voter rolls.

  • S 117 prohibits the use of private funds for election administration and makes a violation of the law a felony.
  • H 196 requires ballots to be continuously counted once tabulation has begun and imposes a new reporting timeline for when results must be initially reported and updated once the polls close.
  • H 754 specifically authorizes the DMV to release records to counties to verify voter registration record information.
  • S 335 requires voters to be on the active voter list to receive a mail ballot, including voters on the permanent mail ballot list. Any voter on the “inactive” list must “reactivate” their registration before they may receive a ballot. It also requires clerks to attempt to contact any voter with an “undeliverable” ballot in the “most expedient means available” to determine the reason the ballot was returned.
  • S 498 requires county registrars to attempt to confirm a voter’s address if the voter fails to return an address confirmation mailer.

The Legislature also passed several bills aimed at establishing new election crimes:

  • H 892 makes it a misdemeanor to vote more than once in the state or purposely remain registered to vote in more than one location in Montana or any other state. While double voting is of course illegal, double registration usually is not. That’s because voters often register in their new home state without reaching out to their prior state of residence to “officially ” cancel the old registration. By including double registration as a crime, the provision needlessly places individuals at potential legal risks for taking steps to register to vote in their new home state of Montana.
  • S 61 makes it a crime to interfere with election officials/election workers.
  • H 173 makes it a crime to install an unauthorized modem on a voting system and/or use a modem to transmit info to/from the voting system.