Montana’s Ballot Interference Prevention Act is unconstitutional.

The ACLU of Montana, Native American Rights Fund and ACLU's lawsuit challenges a Montana law that severely restricts Native Americans’ access to the ballot.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, Native American led organizations focused on getting out the vote and increasing civic participation in the Native American community; and the Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck, Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Crow Tribe, and Fort Belknap Indian Community. They are challenging the so-called Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act (BIPA).

The majority of Montanans cast their ballots by mail. Approximately 70,000 people live on the seven reservations in Montana. Rural tribal communities work with get-out-the-vote organizers who collect and transport ballots to election offices that would otherwise be inaccessible. These ballot collection efforts are often the only way many Indigenous people can access the vote. BIPA effectively ends this practice, disenfranchising Indigenous voters en masse. Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote work to promote civic participation in the Native American community. On average, they collect over 85 ballots per organizer, which has been critical in ensuring people on reservations can exercise their fundamental right to vote. Under BIPA, however, Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote would be able to assist a mere fraction of the voters it served in 2018. The complaint charges BIPA with violating the voting and due process rights of individuals living on reservations, as well as the free speech and association rights of Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote as they engage in ballot collection on reservations. 

 

 

Attorney(s)

Lillian Alvernaz, Alex Rate, Alora Thomas-Lundborg, Dale Ho, Natalie Landreth, Jacqueline DeLéon

Date filed

March 12, 2020

Court

Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court - Yellowstone County

Judge

Ashley Harada

Status

Active

Case number

DV 20-0377