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Montana Democrats sue over new voting laws

Montana Democrats sue over new voting laws
© Wikimedia Commons

Montana Democrats filed a lawsuit against the state just hours after the governor signed two new bills into law that created new restrictions on registering to vote and casting ballots.

Montana Gov. Greg GianforteGregory Richard GianforteWolf hunting rules being eased in Montana despite population decline Montana governor donates first-quarter salary to drug treatment center States push back against federal unemployment policies delaying economic recovery MORE (R) signed two bills on Monday: House Bill 175 that ends same-day voter registration and Senate Bill 169 which changes accepted IDs and requires some voters to present two forms of ID at their voting location, CNN reports.

Election lawyer and founder of the progressive advocacy group Democracy Docket, Marc Elias, announced hours later that a lawsuit had been filed on behalf of Montana Democrats.

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"This afternoon, Montana's Republican Governor signed two voter suppression bills into law. Tonight, on behalf of the @MTDems we sued," Elias tweeted.

The lawsuit alleges the two new laws violate Montana's Constitution by disproportionately affecting "students, the elderly, the disabled, and indigenous communities."

"At no point during the month before an election will voters be able to register outside of normal working hours—between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. And unregistered voters who rely on services that are widely available on election day, like organized transportation, will no longer be able to do so," the suit states.

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"Additionally, previously-registered voters who discover errors in their voter registration information on election day—as tens of thousands of voters have over the last 15 years—will no longer be able to update their registration information and cast a ballot at their polling location on election day," the lawsuit added.

Executive director of the Montana Democratic Party Sandi Luckey told CNN, "The goal of the lawsuit is to stop Republicans from silencing voters, to protect fair elections, and the freedom to vote for everyone in Montana."

GOP lawmakers in state legislatures across the country have introduced or passed bills this year that limit voter access. Recently passed voting laws in Georgia sparked protests and backlash from major corporations.

Republican sponsors of the bill have argued that the bills are not about limiting voter access and instead are meant to improve security and efficiency, though state Sen. Mike Cuffe (R), who sponsored on of the bills, acknowledged that Montana's elections are secure CNN reports.

"I'm not saying, no where in the bill are we indicating that there is any claim of voter fraud or any wrongdoing," Cuffe said in February. "What we're looking at here, is attempting to improve on the system, to make a good sense process better, to ensure that all members all around the state can feel very satisfactory that folks who have signed up to vote are Montana citizens."