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Republicans advance bill ending Election Day voter registration

Registration would end Monday before election
Weatherwax-Marvin.jpg
Posted at 11:56 AM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 19:36:13-05

HELENA — Republicans on a House committee Tuesday narrowly revived and then approved a bill that would end Election Day voter-registration in Montana.

The House State Administration Committee voted 10-9 to revive House Bill 176 – which had been tabled last week -- and then, by the same margin, advanced it to the House floor.

The panel also amended the bill Tuesday, changing the cut-off time for voter registration to noon on Monday before Election Day. The original bill had stopped voter registration at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.

All seven Democrats on the committee and two Republicans – Reps. Geraldine Custer of Forsyth and Brian Putnam of Kalispell – voted against the measure. Ten Republicans on the panel supported HB176, which is sponsored by Rep. Sharon Greef, R-Florence.

Rep. Marvin Weatherwax, D-Browning, said the bill is “voter suppression.”

“Our people all need to vote, our people all need a voice,” said Weatherwax, a member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation. “We were deemed citizens of the United States in 1924. We’ve endured fraud, intimidation, voter tax. We’ve endured all of those things. Now we have this … It seems small, but it’s big.”

Supporters of the bill said eliminating Election Day registration would ease a burden on county election officials, who would work hard to publicize that voter-registration continues until the Monday before the election.

“For a solid month, they advertised walk-in voting,” said Rep. Linda Reksten, R-Polson, referring to the 2020 election. “This was in every single newspaper, it was on radio stations. I just think this is ridiculous that people won’t know about the schedule for the county.”

Rep. Kathy Whitman, R-Missoula, called the Monday cutoff for registration a “really good compromise” that maintained voter registration until one day before the election.

The bill likely will be on the House floor for a debate and vote later this week.