March 21, 2011
CONTACT INFORMATION: Terri McCoy, (406) 444-2807
McCulloch Opposes Measure That Would Limit Montana Residents From Voting; Says State Shouldn’t Impose ID Requirements Stricter Than Those
Imposed by the Federal Government
HELENA, MT – Secretary of State Linda McCulloch on Monday opposed a measure that would limit the legal right for Montana residents to register and to cast a ballot in an election. McCulloch said HB152, which would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID card to register to vote, imposes unneeded bureaucracy upon qualified voters.
“This bill unnecessarily goes above and beyond the ID requirements outlined by the federal Help America Vote Act, which was signed by President Bush in 2002,” McCulloch testified in the Senate State Administration Committee. “Montana is a fiercely independent state, and it is rare to see a measure that increases burdens beyond those that have been imposed by the federal government.”
Some forms of identification used to obtain a government-issued photo ID card are the same forms of identification that Montanans can use under current law to vote. McCulloch said requiring Montanans to go to a licensing branch before registering to vote to obtain a government-issued photo ID places unnecessary burdens on qualified resident voters.
“This bill makes it harder for Montanans to exercise their voting rights,” McCulloch said. “Not every eligible voter has a government-issued photo ID, nor are they able to afford one or find transportation to the licensing branch.”
McCulloch urged the Legislature to consider the costs that states like Ohio and Georgia have incurred defending their ID requirements in court. She said, at the very least, HB152 should follow the guidelines resulting from these court challenges and subsequent decisions regarding government-issued photo ID cards.
“What we can learn from recent litigation is that this bill shouldn’t be taken at face-value,” McCulloch said. “In order to uphold the fundamental right for every eligible person to cast a ballot in an election, Montana will have to provide additional ID services and extensive voter outreach, among other things.”
McCulloch argued that should HB152 become law, the Legislature would have to consider providing government-issued photo ID cards free of charge. She also said the state would need to open additional licensing or ID stations to ensure that every county had one, and possibly extend the hours that the driver’s license offices are open to accommodate all voters.