In the November 2012 election, 329 Yellowstone County residents who had moved since they last registered to vote were able to cast ballots thanks to Montana’s Election Day registration law. Additionally, 471 eligible Yellowstone County voters registered for the first time in Montana and voted because state law provides for Election Day registration. That’s 800 voters in one county at one election using Election Day registration. Many of these folks mistakenly thought they had already registered, just forgot to change their address or understood that they had registered when they renewed their driver’s licenses. This year’s November ballot includes a legislative referendum that would end Election Day voter registration. This referendum would infringe Montanans’ right to vote. If Legislative Referendum 126 had been the law in November 2012, 800 Yellowstone County residents would have been denied their vote.
LR-126 not only seeks to repeal Election Day registration, it does so deceptively. The title of Senate Bill 405 says it is “protecting the integrity of Montana elections by ending voter registration the Friday before Election Day.”
But Election Day registration isn’t a threat to the integrity of elections. To the contrary, people who register on Election Day (or anytime within 30 days of a general election) are subject to more stringent requirements for identification and must register in person at their county elections office.