Notes from the Field

Voting Rights Litigation

September 9, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contacts:

Rylee Sommers-Flanagan

Upper Seven Law, 406-396-3373

 

**Youth coalition files lawsuit to challenge voter suppression laws that reduce youth voter turnout**

[BILLINGS, MONTANA] Montana Youth Action, Forward Montana Foundation, and Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG) have filed a lawsuit challenging three recently passed laws that restrict young Montanans’ access to voting.

The challenged bills include Senate Bill 169, which changes voter identification requirements and limits the use of student ID; House Bill 506, which prohibits ballot distribution to individuals who will but do not yet meet age- and residency- based voter eligibility criteria; and House Bill 176, which eliminates election day registration. The complaint calls out these bills for unconstitutionally burdening Montana’s fundamental right to vote with cause, let alone a compelling reason.

Montanans should take pride in the dramatic increase in youth voter turnout since 2014, when only 18% of voters under age 30 casted a ballot. By contrast, in 2020, 56% of young Montanans turned out to vote. This rise in the proportion of young Montana voters is among the highest in the nation.

In passing these bills, the Montana State Legislature is punishing young voters who are disproportionately impacted by voter suppression bills.

Kiersten Iwai, Executive Director at Forward Montana Foundation:

“Montana voters have already spoken on this issue. In 2014, the overwhelming majority of voters confirmed their support for Election Day registration. Since then, tens of thousands of Montanans have relied on this service.

Facilitative voter laws like Election Day registration strengthen our democracy by providing more opportunities for people like me, a working young woman of color, to access the ballot. We should be celebrating services like Election Day registration, not removing it.”


About the plaintiffs:

Montana Youth Action empowers youth in Big Sky Country to make a difference through politics, civics, and service to communities in Montana. Montana Youth Action has middle and high school student chapters across the state.

Forward Montana Foundation educates, engages, and organizes young Montanans to shape their democracy to improve their lives and the lives of their fellow Montanans.

The Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG) is a student directed and funded nonpartisan organization dedicated to effective, tangible, positive change through education and empowering the next generation of civic leaders.  

Read the full complaint here.