January 16, 2013
CONTACT: Terri McCoy, (406) 444-2807
McCulloch Opposes Measure That Would Deny Montana Residents Their Right to Vote; Says Proposed Photo ID Requirements Would Be Strictest in the Country
HELENA, MT – Secretary of State and Chief Elections Officer Linda McCulloch urged the Montana Legislature on Wednesday to oppose a measure that would limit the legal right for Montana residents to register and vote in an election. McCulloch says HB108 imposes irrational photo ID requirements that go above and beyond the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act, which was signed by President Bush in 2002.
“This bill proposes the most extreme photo ID requirements in the country,” McCulloch testified in the House 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. This Legislature should not waste taxpayer dollars debating changes to a law that works.”
McCulloch said requiring Montanans to go to a licensing branch to obtain a Montana-specific photo ID card before participating in elections places an undue burden on qualified resident voters.
“Not every eligible voter has a Montana-specific photo ID, nor are they able to afford transportation or the documents needed to obtain the ID,” Secretary McCulloch said. “This bill backs Montanans into a corner, and could ultimately deny them their right to vote.”
McCulloch urged the Legislature to consider the lengthy and expensive legal challenges brought before states that have passed strict photo ID laws. She said the measure’s 60-day residency requirement is unconstitutional according to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that Montana can learn from recent litigation that the measure shouldn’t be taken at face-value.
“In order to uphold the fundamental right for every eligible person to cast a ballot in an election, Montana would likely have to provide additional ID services, extensive voter outreach, and implement other costly changes,” McCulloch said. “When you add the expense of defending the state in legal challenges – all you’re left with is an extremely expensive proposal that would deny eligible Montanans their right to vote by making them jump through unnecessary hurdles before casting a ballot.”
McCulloch urged the committee to acknowledge that unfounded and vague allegations of voter fraud provide no defense for HB108, or other measures that would suppress the will of the people of the state of Montana by disenfranchising voters. She said there is no evidence to suggest Montana’s elections are anything but honest, fair, accurate, and secure.