Groups representing young people in Montana hope to prevent a slate of election laws from going into effect before the state’s primary in June.
the Forward Montana Foundation, Montana Public Interest Research Group and Montana Youth Actionare challenging three laws passed by the legislature in 2021, including the end of registration on polling day and stricter voter ID laws which require another form of identification with a student card. Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, Founder and Executive Director of Law of the Seven Superiors, represents the group.
“When you have a bunch of laws that restrict voting — or even make it theoretically harder to vote — those laws will interact with each other to hit youth populations harder,” she said, “so you’re just going to see a natural reduction in youth participation because you’ve made it difficult for them.”
Groups also challenge a law that prohibits mailing ballots to voters before their 18th birthday, even those who will be 18 on election day. Montana lawmakers and Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen said the laws were necessary to ensure the integrity of the state’s elections, a top concern for Republicans.
Youth civic groups filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of these laws before the Montana primary on June 7. Sommers-Flanagan called it unfortunate that the Montana Legislature put in place these barriers to youth voting.
“They’re disappointing in the sense that I wish we didn’t have to bring them up,” she said, “but they’re exciting in the sense that, in particular, the case of youth voting in is one about young people who care a lot about being involved in politics, and being involved in elections, and having a role in how democracy plays out.”
A hearing is scheduled for March 10. The court will also hear other challenges to election laws, including a lawsuit from Native American groups over the law ending voter registration on election day.
Support for this report was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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