Voting rights are under attack in this country as state legislatures nationwide pass voter suppression laws under the pretext of preventing voter fraud and safeguarding election integrity. These voter suppression laws include stringent identification and proof of citizenship requirements and eliminate early voting and same-day voter registration.
In Montana, the ACLU is working hard to protect the voting rights of all people in general and of Native Americans in particular.
Voting in Montana
In Montana, the deadline for regular registration is 30 days before an election, but if you miss that deadline, you can still register and vote in the election by registering at your county election office through the close of polls on Election Day.
When you go to the polls, you will be asked for a current ID. If you do not have a photo ID, you can still provide a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, voter confirmation notice, government check or other government document that shows your name and current address. And if you do not have any of these items, ask the polling place volunteers about an ID form or voting with a provisional ballot.
The ACLU of Montana and a coalition of other Montana voting rights advocates called Montanans for Free and Fair Elections worked hard during the 2014 General Election season to prevent passage of LR-126, a legislative referendum which would have eliminated Election Day voter registration and disenfranchised thousands of Montana voters. The referendum went down in an overwhelming defeat.
Native American Voting Rights
Native American voting rights have been a core issue for the ACLU for decades, going back to the 1982 case Windy Boy v. Big Horn County.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit in August 2013 against Wolf Point High School District 45A in U.S. District Court on behalf of seven Wolf Point residents, challenging illegal and discriminatory Wolf Point Public Schools voting districts. Wolf Point High School District 45A unites School Districts 3 and 45. District 3, with a majority white population, was electing one board member for every 143 residents. District 45, which is majority Native American, was electing one board member for every 841 residents. Wolf Point School District officials conceded in January 2014 that its voting districts are malapportioned, and violate the “one person, one vote” requirement of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In April 2014, we finalized a settlement which calls for creating five single-school board member districts and the election of one at-large board member. We are monitoring the progress on this issue.
In another voting rights case, Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch, the ACLU of Montana supported members of three Montana tribes seeking satellite offices on three reservations for late voter registration and in-person absentee voting. Together with the National ACLU Voting Rights Project, we filed a friend of the court brief in the case in 2012. Tribal members living on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap Reservations were at a voting disadvantage compared to white voters in Rosebud, Blaine and Big Horn Counties because the only late registration and early voting available were at county courthouses. These courthouses are in the white population centers and are in some cases more than 100 miles round-trip from where most tribal members live, preventing them from registering and voting after the regular registration deadline, and diluting Indian voting strength. A June 2014 settlement established satellite offices on the Crow, Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne reservations twice a week through Election Day and will enable many of these voters to exercise their right to vote.