Republicans in the Montana Senate have endorsed a bill that would end same-day voter registration in the state, pushing the bill closer to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk.
House Bill 176 would require voter registration to end at noon the day before Election Day.
Supporters say the bill is needed because same-day registration causes undue burden for election administrators. Opponents say the bill will make it harder for some, like Native Americans and those who are disabled, to vote.
The bill advanced on a party line vote.
Montana is one of 21 states plus the District of Columbia that allow same-day voter registration.
Republican Sen. Mike Cuffe sponsored the bill in the Senate.
"Elections, you know, they don’t just pop up out of the blue. They don’t come along and surprise us. We know they’re coming. The dates are there. We need to register ahead of time."
The House State Administration Committee originally tabled the bill. But Republicans revived the proposal after it was amended to move the voter registration deadline closer to Election Day. Republican Secretary of State Christie Jacobsen said the legislation is a top priority for her office.
Sen. Susan Webber, a Democrat from Browning, opposes the bill.
"I think House Bill 176 is disingenuous, it does only one thing. This further suppresses the Montana Indian vote."
The bill will have to clear one more vote in the Senate, and then the House will have to concur amendments made in the Senate, before it’ll reach the governor’s desk for consideration.