As Montana voters head to polls this fall, they’ll decide not only on competing candidates but also on a referendum that would end the state’s policy of allowing voters to register on Election Day. The measure, Legislative Referendum 126, would amend state election law to move up the voter registration deadline to 5 p.m. Friday of the week before elections. Currently, voters can register until the close of polls the Tuesday elections are held. Advocates say the change is a common-sense way to help elections run more smoothly, and that asking people to register beforehand represents a reasonable burden. Opponents protest that it would make it harder for many Montanans to exercise their constitutional right to vote, particularly potentially marginalized groups such as seniors, young voters and American Indians. Underlying the debate is a widely held perception that Election Day registrants tend to skew liberal with their votes. Many of the measure’s proponents are prominent Republicans, and many of its opponents are Democrats or liberal advocacy groups.
Since Montana began allowing voters to register on Election Day in 2006, the policy had been subject to repeated repeal efforts by legislative Republicans. LR 126 was submitted as a voter referendum by the Republican-led 2013 Montana Legislature to avoid a likely veto from Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
In November 2012, during a presidential election cycle, 8,053 voters registered on Election Day, reports the office of Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat. In 2010, 3,735 did.
McCulloch, who has publicly opposed ending same-day voter registration, estimates that a total of 29,000 Montana voters have used it since 2006.
Full Article: Referendum would end Election Day voter registration.