A bill to end voter registration on the Friday before Election Day drew widespread opposition Monday from the state’s chief election official and groups representing Indians, disabled people, women, seniors, union members and others. In all, 20 people testified against House Bill 30, by Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman, while two people spoke in favor of it. It would end voter registration at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, which is the next Tuesday. The House State Administration Committee took no immediate action on the bill.
The Affordable Care Act isn’t the only consequential law whose fate the U.S. Supreme Court holds in its hands. Before the end of the month, the Court is also expected to decide whether to hear a Montana campaign-finance case that may alter the landmark Citizens United ruling. The Montana case, American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, arose from a challenge to the state’s campaign-finance law. In 1912, when Montana’s “copper kings” routinely drew on their immense wealth to buy off local politicians, the state’s citizens approved a ballot initiative called the Corrupt Practices Act, which banned corporate money in state campaigns and imposed strict limits on individual donations. Today, state legislators can take no more than $160 from individual donors; candidates for governor can take about $1,000. The winner of a Montana Senate race spends an average of $17,000—compare that to the more than $125 million that’s been spent in Wisconsin on a series of recall elections since last winter. Montana’s insistence on transparency and the barriers it built to contain corporate spending have “nurtured a rare, pure form of democracy,” wrote Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer has vetoed a bill to require a government-issued photo identification to cast a vote during an election. Schweitzer says the bill would have placed an unnecessary burden on low-income, elderly, disabled and student voters.