When you can’t get voters for you, the best strategy is simply to prevent them from voting, or make it as difficult as possible. That’s what it appears the three Republican Gallatin County commissioners are doing by refusing to put a polling place on campus and asking students to vote at a location that is difficult to get to an even dangerous. On top of that, they’re adding even more voters to this crowded, difficult-to-access spot.
In the Bozeman Chronicle, reporter Troy Carter reports that commissioners are “offended” that anyone would suggest their motives are partisan, but voter suppression, under the guise of preventing imaginary fraud and limiting polling places for demographic groups less inclined to vote Republican is national and state Republican practice. Ask the college students the GOP tried to disenfranchise in the state, or the ones that are often accused without evidence of voting fraudulently by the GOP—or look at the coordinated effort to not provide adequate polling facilities in urban and reservation areas for evidence of this approach to winning elections by denying the ballot.
The Bozeman example is a small illustration of the effort to make voting more difficult, for no reason. Kia Abbey of Forward Montana told the commissioners:
In June, Forward Montana, the Associated Students of Montana State University, Disability Rights Montana, Montana Conservation Voters and League of Women Voters met with you to express our safety concerns with the Hope Lutheran Church polling location. Without a sidewalk, a bike lane, a shoulder, or a bus route, it is largely inaccessible without a private vehicle.
We know there are alternatives on MSU’s campus that are accessible by bike, on foot, and by bus in addition to private vehicle.
Unlike the Chronicle’s headline suggests, that’s not just “liberal” groups asking for change; it’s a broad group of people interested in ensuring equal voting access. And it’s an easy problem to fix.
Nathan Kosted, with the Montana Human Rights Network pointed out that the commissioners were not only undermining public safety, but doing it practically in secret:
Shame on you for placing citizens who want to vote at risk.
You are doing democracy a disservice. You think this is a public meeting? It is 9am on Tuesday morning. Why is this not in the evening?
Most people work during the day and students are in class. You are trying to hide this. You want as few people as possible here. You want to limit public comment. You have already made your mind up on this issue, this meeting is a sham. You’ve already moved polling places off campus and you’re trying to move the rest.
We need to fight Republican efforts to disenfranchise those unattracted to their increasingly narrow, reactionary view. Sign the petition today to let the Gallatin County commissioners know they can’t get away with this.