A bill sponsored by Montana Representative Ted Washburn (R-Bozeman) to nix the state’s same-day voter registration system passed the House State Administration Committee on party lines Friday, with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against. Another bill sponsored by Washburn which would require a Montana-issued ID card to vote, was tabled in the committee after three Republicans voted with Democrats. The same-day voter registration closure bill moves the final day to register to the Friday before Election Day. The bill drew long lines of opposition during its public hearing last week, compared with two people speaking in favor of it.
“This is obviously an issue that pretty much no matter how you vote you’re gonna make somebody upset,” Representative Liz Bangerter (R-Helena) said Friday. She said the emails she has received about the bill have been pretty much split down the middle. She says this bill is not about addressing voter fraud (the state has no documented cases of voter fraud), but rather easing up a hectic workload for election administrators on election day.
The last few Presidential elections in Montana have seen voters standing in line for hours at polling places. Thousands of those people statewide need to register at the same time. Supporters of dropping same-day registration say taking that service out of the process would shorten those lines and free up election officials to work on getting people into the voting booth more quickly.