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Letters to the Editor: Open and fair elections

| March 18, 2021 12:05 AM

Open and fair elections

As of mid-February, Republican legislators in 43 states have proposed more than 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting. Montana House Bill 176 would end same-day voter registration. Under current law, the registration remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day. This bill would overturn a referendum passed by Montana voters in 2005. Senate Bill 169 would change ID requirements for voting to make it harder for certain types of voters to vote.

The voting process in Montana is running smoothly. There have been few, if any, substantiated cases of fraud in Montana elections. The proposed restrictions in Montana and other states could take voting access back to the late-19th century by disenfranchising certain groups.

Why are the Republicans submitting bills to fix something that is not broken? Republicans say it is to shore up the integrity of elections as they continue claiming a rigged election after multiple court cases rule to the contrary. It seems strange the issue of election integrity did not come up in the 2016 presidential election when Donald Trump lost the popular vote, nor in the 2020 Montana State election when Republicans ran the table in both the legislature and governor’s office. It seems the proposed changes in the laws are more about trying to change the results for future elections in favor of the Republicans. That is what I called “rigged.”

Voter turnout has risen to new heights over the past few years. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that voters may register on the same day they vote, vote by mail, vote in-person and due to current Montana ID requirements for voter registration. Isn’t having as many people vote who are eligible a good thing? We need open and fair elections for our democracy to thrive.

— Suz Rittenhouse, Polson

Protect campaign finance laws

The reason Montana has the best campaign finance laws is because the Anaconda Corp. in the 1910s and 1920s proved to Montana citizens that it was easy for corporations to buy off politicians. Not unlike what we are seeing today. HB 224 and HB 225 are intended to loosen the restrictions that have protected our elections for a century. They will increase the amount of dark money that can be spent and exempt some expenses that presently need to be reported.

We should be proud of our campaign finance protections. Please don’t allow Republicans to decrease the protections that Montana voters presently have. Write, text or email your representative and complain. Go to Mtleg.gov to access your representative.

— Mary Stranahan, Arlee

Two sides to election reform

Both state legislatures and Congress are introducing bills that either restrict ballot access for security reasons, or improve access to allow greater participation. In Montana, HB176 eliminates same-day voter registration, (important to tribal members) while HB169 restricts the types of IDs permissible for voter identification.

Bills improving access include: at the congressional level, HR1, (For the People Act) seeks to expand voting rights, diminish the role of money in politics, reduce partisan gerrymandering and enhance ethics laws; in Montana, HB613, (Native American Voting Rights Act) works to reduce voting barriers in Indigenous communities.

Both sides of the debate should look to red Kentucky. In light of the pandemic, a Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state created a bipartisan emergency plan allowing for early voting, countywide voting centers, online portals for absentee ballot requests and other access measures, while also adding security measures (no third-party ballot collection, and some voter rolls purging under certain conditions). In spite of expanded voter access, Republicans did extremely well in the election.

The Kentucky Legislature may make these changes permanent. The trick was to couple voter expansion with enhanced security measures, a compromise that recognizes both sides of the ballot access debate. Montana should take note.

— Caryl Cox, Polson