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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Tribes File Lawsuit Challenging New Voting Laws

A mail ballot from the 2020 Montana primary elections.
Nicky Ouellet
Yellowstone Public Radio
A 2020 Montana primary election absentee ballot

Several Montana tribal nations and legal nonprofits on Monday filed a lawsuit challenging two new laws they say disenfranchise American Indian voters.

The American Indian Rights Fund and the ACLU of Montana filled the case in the Yellowstone County district court on behalf of the Blackfeet Nation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and Western Native Voice. 

The case centers on two new laws that end same-day voter registration and prevent people from turning in someone else’s absentee ballot if they are paid to do so. 

The Montana Democratic Party is also challenging new election laws in Yellowstone County court.

Tribes and their advocates say the laws disadvantage voters on rural reservations. Some tribal members have limited transportation and can’t make multiple trips to register to vote and cast their ballots. Limited postal routes on reservations can also make it difficult for tribal members to cast absentee ballots by mail. Supporters say the laws add security to election procedures. 

Last fall, the same court struck down a law passed by voter referendum in 2018, restricting ballot collection efforts.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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