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HomeNewsMontana Court Throws Out Republican-Approved Voting Restrictions

Montana Court Throws Out Republican-Approved Voting Restrictions

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Voting rights secured a win on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, after Montana’s highest court struck down four laws that the state’s Republican-led legislature passed in 2021 to restrict voting. In a 125-page opinion, the Montana Supreme Court declared the laws unconstitutional.

A picture illustrating Montana Supreme Court ruling
Source; Pinterest

Notably, the ruling sided with a district court judge who ruled against them in 2022. The opinion, signed by four of the seven justices, states that the laws “violate the fundamental right to vote provided to all citizens by the Montana Constitution.” 

The laws ended same-day voter registration and eliminated student ID cards as a permitted form of voter ID. Furthermore, they sought to curtail paid ballot-collection efforts. They also outlawed absentee ballots for people who would be 18 years old by Election Day.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision, a lower court, after a nine-day trial, found that the laws violated voter rights. The court discovered the laws would make it harder for residents to register to vote and cast a ballot. “Today’s decision is a tremendous victory for democracy,” Sheila Hogan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said.

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“While Republican politicians continue to attack voting rights, their voter suppression efforts failed and were struck down as unconstitutional.” Although Democrats praised the ruling, Republicans condemned it. The office of Montana’s secretary of state, Christi Jacobsen (R), criticized the Supreme Court decision.

“The Secretary is devastated by this decision,” Jacobsen’s office said. “But assures Montanans that her commitment to election integrity will not waver by this narrow adoption of judicial activism.” The office added, “State and county election officials have been punched in the gut.”

Montana’s state legislature passed all four laws in 2021 as Republican-led states nationwide pursued tighter election rules. It all happened in the wake of President Donald Trump’s reelection defeat. However, the Montana Democratic Party and other groups challenged the laws in court.

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Hence, District Court Judge Michael Moses struck them down in separate rulings in 2022. Native American communities kicked against the laws, saying some of them especially hurt them. The Supreme Court opinion also backed their claims. 

The opinion claimed it “takes away the only option to vote for several Native Americans living on reservations.” Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Ronnie Jo Horse, executive director of Western Native Voice, applauded the decision. 

“Victory in a lawsuit is not just about winning in the courtroom,” Jo Horse said. “But it’s about upholding justice, defending the truth, and restoring balance.” The Supreme Court ruling, she added, is “not just a win for us but for all of Montana.”

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Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote the opinion released on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Justices Laurie McKinnon, James Jeremiah Shea, and Ingrid Gustafson also joined him. According to reports, Montana Supreme Court justices’ elections are nonpartisan.

Montana remains a critical political battleground as the November 2024 elections draw closer. The state might not be competitive in the presidential race. However, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is a top target of national Republicans. With the Republican majority thinning, they seek to flip control of the U.S. Senate.

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