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Montana Politics

Republicans Working to Disenfranchise Young Montana Voters, Especially in Missoula County

Ian Marquand, from the Montana’s New Station has an interesting post up today about Montana Republican Party efforts to disenfranchise voters, especially young voters:

On Monday, the executive director for Montana’s Republican Party, Jake Eaton, dropped more than 3,400 challenges of registered voters to Missoula’s elections office. In other words, Eaton is challenging whether 3,400 Missoula County voters are eligible to cast a ballot in November. (To put it in context, Missoula has about 68,000 active registered voters.) He’s also filed challenges in Lewis and Clark, Silver Bow, Hill, Glacier, Deer Lodge and Roosevelt Counties, involving some 6,000 voters in all.

The intrepid defenders of democracy at the Republican Party compared voter registration cards with change of address requests filed with the USPS to find voters who might vote in the wrong district or double vote. It sounds reasonable, until one examines what the Republicans are trying to do: intimidate people, especially voters, rather than educate them.

The executive director of the Montana Republican Party, Jake Eaton, certainly didn’t choose at random when he selected counties to challenge:

Missoula County had the largest list of "discrepancies" of all 56 counties, so Eaton made sure it was among the first to be tested. The result is that the county elections office must generate more than 3,400 voter notification letters (plus residence affidavits and other information) that must be mailed by next Monday . . . in other words, Eaton’s challenges could hardly come at a worse time.

Marquand charitably accepts Eaton’s justification, which is a total sham. A little-known fact about Missoula County is that it tends to vote Democratic. Another little-known fact is that it has a large number of college-age voters, the kind of people most likely impacted by this challenge. Eaton and the Republicans are interested in one thing: intimidating young voters into thinking they can’t vote. The timing  and geography of the challenges makes that abundantly clear. Republicans in this state have a good reason to be afraid of voters. Their candidates lack ideas and have a very limited vision for the state that voters are seeing through.

The Republican Party can’t compete anymore in the marketplace of ideas. Their mean-spirited, narrow agenda has lost so much support that they spend more time challenging the rights of people to cast ballots than working to ensure that everyone gets to vote. Of course they don’t want young people to vote; young voters really only remember the past eight years of Republican corruption, mismanagement and lies.

So what can we do?

Educate voters. College students should know that they absolutely have a right to vote where they attend school. From the Secretary of State’s web page:

If you’re a student living at school, you can choose whether to register at home or school, but you can’t register or vote in both places.

People who have changed their addresses also have the right to vote. They just need to re-register, and quickly. Though Montana does have same day registration, voters should check with their local election offices to make sure what they need to do to be able to vote.

6,000 Montanans are going to get official-looking letters telling them they need to sign an affidavit and have it notarized to vote. It’s an effort to depress turnout, pure and simple. Help educate your friends that no one can take away their right to throw these people so hostile to democracy right out of office.

On a final note, I thought Brad Johnson fixed all our our election issues?

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.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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