Montana Politics

Brad Johnson: Wrong About Same Day Registration

Brad Johnson (you might know him from the endless commercials and omnipresent billboards) has written an opinion piece to the Billings Gazette, attacking the idea of same day voting.

Johnson opens with this salvo:

Our last election made clear that allowing registration on Election Day itself encourages procrastination, discourages informed voting, and creates chaos for election workers – chaos that endangers the integrity of our elections.
But the opponents of this bill have settled for spurious partisan attacks. This is serious business. It's not a time for partisanship.
Millions of Americans have struggled and even given their lives to protect our right to vote; is it now so unimportant that we can't ask people to think about it four days in advance?

Wow. Who knew that by supporting same day registration and voting I was denigrating the efforts of veterans to protect American democracy? That overreach aside, Johnson's argument is still a terrible one. How can voters be less informed by waiting later? Candidates are still reaching out to voters in those last few days–and a number of voters are still, as hard as it might be for a partisan hack like Johnson to understand, undecided. How do we hurt democracy by giving them more time to weigh the issues and make up their minds? 

As for procastination, Johnson is at least an expert in the subject. His office put on a masterful display of incompetence in the 2006 election cycle, spending more time on inane press releases and self-serving commercials than ensuring that enough correct ballots reached the counties, and that election officials were prepared. Johnson's attempt to deflect this criticism as partisan demonstrates just how out of touch he is–with members of both parties.

At the center of Johnson's argument is an increasingly tired Republican tactic:demonizing people who register and vote on the same day as frauds. While it's frustrating for this talking point to make the rounds without proof ad nauseum, it's especially frustrating when it comes from Johnson. If fraud did happen, should he, as the state's top election official, have done something about it? It's classic Brad Johnson: no substance, all politics.

Finally, Johnson claims that the burden of same day registration is just too much:

Even the strongest back can bend under too much weight. In our last election, late registration nearly did this. There were unprecedented lines at the courthouse – lines ranging from a half hour up to four hours or more. Voting continued until midnight in one location, delaying results while the eyes of the nation were on us. 

In the same article, though, he notes that only 4,000 people out of a total of 411,000 voters (less than 1%) registered and voted on the same day. It defies logic to believe that the insignificant number of last minute voters caused the delays and errors. The real cause of long lines and delays? Voters hungry to get out and make a difference. 

Somehow I suspect Mr. Johnson would like to limit that as well.


If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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