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Montana tribes challenge new voter restrictions

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Town Crier “Briefs from the Region” (2) – 5/18/21

On May 17, the Blackfeet Nation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote filed a lawsuit in Yellowstone County Court challenging Gov. Greg Gianforte’s House Bill 530. The law prevents people from collecting other voters’ ballots and threatens a $100 fine if they are caught. It quickly passed through the Legislature in the final hours of the 2021 session. The lawsuit claims these laws are “part of a broader scheme by the Montana Legislature to disenfranchise Native American voters,” according to the Helena Independent Record. The bill is similar to the Ballot Integrity Protection Act of 2018, which was struck down following a lawsuit filed by Native American advocacy groups who often collect ballots on behalf of Native voters due to the remote nature of many of the reservations. “Never would I try to keep someone from voting, period. I only want to see [elections] more secure,” said Rep. Wendy McKamey, the Cascade County Republican who sponsored HB 530. “We all have the same amount of time in which to cast our ballots … This bill puts no barriers in place.”

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