Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 1:15 am | Updated: 12:36 am, Tue Feb 5, 2013.
A state bill asking legislators to end same-day voter registration passed the House of Representatives Friday and heads to the Senate.
House Bill 30, sponsored by Rep. Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman, would require voters to register by 5 p.m. the Friday before an election. Late registration is currently available until the polls close Election Day.
Washburn said the change would ease the workload of county employees tasked with running an election and assisting late registrants on the same day.
“It’s an insane process to expect them to try and do both,” Washburn said. “Just like how everybody will wait to do their grocery shopping until the day before the Super Bowl and then it’s a mad house.”
The House must vote on a bill twice before it moves to the Senate. For this type of bill to pass, the legislation requires a simple majority. Washburn said both votes in the House followed party lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it.
“It’ll be the same in the Senate, too,” Washburn predicted.
The Senate consists of 29 Republicans and 21 Democrats. The conservative majority is even greater in the House, with 61 Republicans and 39 Democrats.
Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, has been an outspoken opponent of HB-30, which he said echoes a national trend of legislation aiming to suppress voter rights.
“I honestly believe it’s one of the worst bills we will see this session because it strikes at the core of our democracy,” Bennett said. “We need to ask the people who are pushing these bills who it is that doesn’t deserve the right to vote.”
Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, expressed a similar sentiment in an interview last week.
“I think we have to be careful any time we’re making it more difficult to vote,” Bullock said.
However, he did not say whether he would continue former Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s precedent of vetoing Republican-sponsored bills.
“I’m frankly hopeful that if the bills they put on my desk are about improving education and creating jobs, then there won’t be a need to veto,” Bullock said.