The Montana Senate on Thursday passed a pair of proposed ballot referendums aimed at changing voting in Montana. The first measure, Senate Bill 405, would ask voters to eliminate same-day voter registration. The second bill, SB 408 would put a referendum on the ballot that would create a “top two primary” system in which only the top two vote-getters would qualify for the November general election ballot. Sen. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, sponsored both bills, which passed on mostly partly-line votes with Republicans supporting the measures and Democrats opposing them.
Democrats said SB 405 was an attempt to limit access to voting for people who would otherwise be qualified to vote. Republicans argued that same-day voter registration creates long lines at the polls on Election Day and leads to frustration among voters and opens up the potential for voter fraud.
Democrats were also upset that the bill was heard late Wednesday afternoon but was given very little notice. Senate rules allow bills facing impending transmittal deadlines to be heard with short notice. The deadline for bills proposing referendums to pass their first chamber is Friday.
Olson said the measure, which would close voter registration at 5 p.m. the Friday before the Tuesday election, got a fair hearing in committee.