Montana Late Voter Registration Revision Measure, LR-126 (2014)

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Late Voter Registration Revision Measure
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Type:State statute
Referred by:Montana State Legislature
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
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November 4
C-45 Defeatedd
LR-126 Defeatedd

The Montana Late Voter Registration Revision Measure, LR-126 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Montana as a legislatively-referred state statute, where it was defeated. The measure would have changed the deadline for late voter registration from poll closing on Election Day to 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before election day.[1]

The measure was sponsored in the Montana Legislature by State Senator Alan Olson (R-23) as SB 405.[2]

Election results

Below are the official, certified election results:

Montana Late Voter Registration Revision Measure
Defeatedd No206,58457.11%
Yes 155,153 42.89%

Election results via: Montana Secretary of State

Text of measure

The official ballot text appeared as follows:[1]



The 2013 Legislature submitted this proposal for a vote. LR-126 changes the deadline for late voter registration from the close of polls on election day to 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the election. LR-126 also moves the deadline for changes to an elector's voter registration information from the close of polls on election day to 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the election. The National Voter Registration Act referenced in the title of LR-126 does not require elimination of election-day registration, and does not require moving the deadline for changes to an elector’s voter registration information.

[ ] YES on Legislative Referendum LR‐126

[ ] NO on Legislative Referendum LR‐126[3]


The Billings Gazette described the campaign in support of the referral as "pretty much nonexistent."[4]

LR-126 was introduced into the legislature by Sen. Alan Olson (R-23).[2]




Only Republicans voted to place the measure on the ballot.

The following state senators voted to place the measure on the ballot:[2]

Note: A yes vote on the measure merely referred the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators approved of the stipulations laid out in LR-126.

Only Republicans voted to place the measure on the ballot.

The following state representatives voted to place the measure on the ballot:[2]

Note: A yes vote on the measure merely referred the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators approved of the stipulations laid out in LR-126.


  • Sen. Olson (R-23) argued, “The people of Montana do have the right to show up and vote, but with that vote comes responsibility.”[5] He also said, "This is to take the burden off of county elections administrators on Election Day. They get spread very thin by trying to manage everything out in rural areas."[6]
  • Rep. Ted Washburn (R-69) stated, “We are looking at increasing the integrity of the vote because we are trying to get all the people registered on the last Friday before election. We are trying to concentrate on the large crowds that come out. Some times it takes four to six hours to try and get them registered and trying to get them into vote [sic].”[7]
  • Rep. Champ Edmunds (R-100) said, "I’ve traveled all around the state running for the U.S. Senate, and I’ve yet to run into a single clerk and recorder who said they want to keep things this way. It’s very burdensome on the clerk and recorder’s office, and in addition to that, it turns people away at the polls."[8]


Montanans for Free and Fair Elections 2014.png

The campaign in opposition of the measure is being led by Montanans for Fair and Free Elections.[9]




Only Democrats voted against placing the measure on the ballot.

The following state senators voted against placing the measure on the ballot:[2]


A Montanans for Free and Fair Elections, titled "Who?"

All Democrats and three Republicans voted against placing the measure on the ballot.

The following state representatives voted against placing the measure on the ballot:[2]

Former officials


  • Montana AFL-CIO[11]
  • Montana Public Employees Association
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
  • Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers
  • Montana Women Vote
  • Western Native Voice
  • Forward Montana[12]
  • Montana ACLU
  • Northern Plains Resource Council
  • MontPIRG
  • AARP
  • Sleeping Giant Citizens Council
  • Montana Organizing Project
  • Carol's List
  • YWCA of Great Falls
  • Local 4993 - Department of Revenue
  • Great Falls Child Development Federation
  • Kalispell Education Association
  • Great Falls Education Association
  • Billings Education Association
  • Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana
  • Montana Conservation Voters
  • Executive Board of the University of Montana Faculty Association


A Montanans for Free and Fair Elections, titled "Right to Vote."

State Representative Tom Woods (D-64) argued against LR-126, saying:

The reason that proponents give for this is that same day registration results in a great deal of work for County Clerks on election day... but isn’t that what we pay our public employees for? Should we sacrifice the rights of thousands of Montanans simply because of an inconvenience to the clerks? I’m sorry, but that is just not sensible. If one night of overtime every other year is indeed the problem we can address it in other ways. We can add temporary staff at election time or we can simply accept later election returns. But this isn’t really the reason this issue is being pushed on us. Let’s examine some other reasoning...

It was stated on the floor of the legislature that same-day registration invites voter fraud. OK, if that is the case, how many voter fraud cases have we seen in Montana? Well, since the year 2006 (the year we implemented Election Day registration) we have seen two instances of fraud, one of which involved an absentee ballot. Let’s balance that against the number of people who (since 2006) were able to register and vote on election day: over 28,000. I think this clearly states that keeping same-day voter registration is the right thing to do. So again, why is this even an issue?...

The ballot initiative that I am talking about, LR–126 has been written and promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This is a national group that promotes its agenda by writing and introducing bills in each individual state legislature. This group has determined that it is to their advantage to end same-day voter registration. It’s partisan politics. It’s allowing an out-of-state group to tell us how to run our state. It’s wrong. [3]

—Rep. Tom Woods[13]

The Montana Conservation Voters called for a "no" vote in the group's voter guide:

America is the world’s leading democracy and Montana has one of the best elections systems in our country. It works well; our registration process is easy and accessible, and it protects our constitutional right to vote.

But LR126, a measure placed on the ballot at the last minute by the 2013 Legislature, ends our system of Election Day voter registration. It repeals our right to register to vote on Election Day and the day before, a right used by over 29,000 Montanans since it was passed in 2005.

LR126 jeopardizes the right of our seniors, recently returned military veterans, disabled people, family farmers and ranchers, and Montanans from all walks of life to register to vote. These are the people who have used Election Day voter registration.

In Yellowstone County in the November, 2012 election, 316 of the nearly 800 voters who registered on Election Day were already registered but had moved. If LR126 passes, Montanans like them would not be able to register and vote on future Election Days...

Montana is ranked by a Pew Charitable Trust report as the 11th best state in the country for efficient and well-run elections. One of the reasons Montana ranks so high is because we are a state that puts an emphasis on an elections process that is fair, honest, open, and accurate.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it! LR126 was put on the ballot by legislators in Helena at the last minute during the 2013 session, and not one person testified in support of it. It’s a solution looking for a problem and places unfair hurdles in front of our freedom to vote.

Voting in Montana’s elections should be an easy and accessible process for all eligible Montana residents. When people register to vote and cast their ballot, conservation wins. Many ballot measures affecting the environment (pro and con) are often decided by a few hundred voters. That’s why it’s important for the conservation and environmental community to stand against LR126. [3]

—Montana Conservation Voters[14]

A Montanans for Free and Fair Elections, titled "Protect Your Vote, Montana."

Other arguments against the measure included:

  • Gov. Bullock (D) said, "Anytime we’re making it more difficult for Montanans to vote, it’s a sad day in Montana. We should be doing everything we can to make sure that every Montanan can vote – not doing everything we can to prevent them from voting."[5]
  • President of Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers (MEA-MFT), Eric Feaver, argued, "LR-126 is clear voter suppression, and it cuts across the board of affected groups – Native Americans, university students, people who have changed addresses and veterans."[11]
  • Montana Women Vote’s Sarah Howell contended, “Election Day registration is a safeguard that means if you find yourself unregistered on Election Day – whether by error, because you moved, or for any other reason – you are still able to register and vote at the same time. This is particularly important for seniors, veterans who have served out of state, people who live in rural Montana, low-income folks, and others.”[15]

Some counter-arguments to claims made by supporters were:

  • Rep. Bryce Bennett (D-92) countered a Republican argument, stating, “Despite the fact that there may be a little bit more work for our county clerks when it comes to election day, we still have a right to vote. Despite the fact that there might be long lines sometimes, we still have a right to vote.”[7]
  • Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (D) also attempted to counter a Republican argument by contending that the problem of long lines in some districts is "administrative." She elaborated, "You don’t fix administrative problems by turning people away from the polls."[6]
  • Christopher Muste, Professor of Political Science at the University of Montana, said long lines caused by same-day voter registration are solvable. He noted, "Montana has been doing this for four elections now. Most (counties) have probably created very effective strategies for handling same-day registration." He continued, "Regardless of motivation, the effect of this, if it passes, will be to reduce voter participation and reduce it selectively."[6]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Montana ballot measures, 2014


  • Billings Gazette said, "Since Election Day registration became available in the 2006 elections, 28,329 Montanans have used it to exercise their right to vote, according to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. When Montanans get their Nov. 4 ballots, they can ensure that those Election Day registrations continue for seniors, students, rural residents, city dwellers, newcomers, recently relocated residents – for all of us Montanans. Vote no on LR-126. Vote against repealing Election Day registration."[16]
  • Bozeman Daily Chronicle said, "If we change anything about the electoral process, we should do so with an eye toward making the act of voting easier and increasing the rate of participation. LR-126 would do just the opposite."[17]
  • Montana Kaimin said, "Voter suppression is alive and well in the U.S. — just look at the strict photo-ID voting laws in Texas, Indiana, Virginia, Kansas, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee. Montana shouldn’t fall prey to the same intimidation tactics."[18]

Related lawsuits

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2014

MEA-MFT, et al. v. Fox

2014 measure lawsuits
By state
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By lawsuit type
Ballot text
Campaign contributions
Motivation of sponsors
Petitioner residency
Post-certification removal
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Signature challenges
Initiative process

On December 3, 2013, the MEA-MFT, AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Human Rights Network, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, Montana Women Vote and Western Native Voice filed a lawsuit with the Montana Supreme Court in an attempt to remove LR-126 from the ballot. The petitioners claimed LR-126’s title language to be false, as one line read, “ENSURING COMPLIANCE WITH THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT [NVRA].” They noted, “Nothing in LR-126 is required in any way by the NVRA.” The “inaccurate language” was returned by the Attorney General to the Secretary of State without proper review, according to the petitioners. Therefore, the measure “is legally insufficient as a ballot measure.”[19] The ACLU, League of Women Voters, AARP and the Montana Conservation Voters all filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the petitioners.[20] The Attorney General, the respondent, stated, “Petitioners’ argument fails because LR-126 does contain language regarding the NVRA that is accurately summarized in the referendum’s title and addresses a concern raised by legislative staffers.”[21]

On February 5, 2014, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in a 5-1 decision that LR-126 would stay on the ballot. Justice Michael Wheat was the lone dissenter. He said, "It is undeniable that same-day voter registration has absolutely nothing to do with compliance with the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act). Thus, the statement in the title of LR-126 to the contrary is a fatal defect that cannot be cured." Chief Justice Mike McGrath, writing for the majority, said, "[W]e are reluctant to take the extraordinary step of nullifying its placement on the ballot. [Supreme Court precedents] counsel in favor of allowing the measure to proceed to a vote."[22] The court did, however, declare the contested sentence in the ballot statement to be incorrect and ordered it to be rewritten. The original statement said that the referendum's approval was necessary to ensure compliance with a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act. According to the court, LR-126's intent is not required by the NVRA.[23]

Path to the ballot

See also: Legislatively-referred state statutes in Montana

A simple majority was required in both chambers of the legislature to place the legislatively-referred state statute on the ballot in Montana. SB 405 was approved through a vote in both legislative chambers. It was approved by the Montana House of Representatives on April 17, 2013. The measure was approved by the Montana State Senate on April 19, 2013.[2]

House vote

April 17, 2013 House vote

Montana SB 405 House Vote
Approveda Yes 58 58.00%

Senate vote

April 19, 2013 Senate vote

Montana SB 405 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 29 59.18%

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Basic information



  1. 1.0 1.1 Montana Secretary of State, "Legislative Referendum No. 126 Ballot Language," accessed on January 17, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Montana Legislature, "SB 405 - Detailed Bill Information," accessed January 17, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. The Billings Gazette, "Groups working hard to keep same-day voter registration," October 15, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Montana Public Media, "Legislators refer big changes in elections to Montana voters," April 21, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Montana Public Radio, "LR-126 Asks Montanans To End Election Day Registration," October 13, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 KRTV, "Same-day voter registration debated in Montana Legislature," April 17, 2013
  8. The Billings Gazette, "Election Day voter registration? Referendum could end it," October 14, 2014
  9. Montanans for Fair and Free Elections, "Homepage," accessed September 18, 2014
  10. Char-Koosta News, "Montana Indians have to help defeat LR 126," September 25, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 Missoulian, "Groups ask Montana court to strike referendums from ballot," December 19, 2013
  12. Montanans for Free and Fair Elections, "Endorsements," accessed September 18, 2014
  13. Belgrade News, "Oppose LR-126," February 14, 2014
  14. Montana Conservation Voters, "November 4, 2014 General Election Voter Guide," accessed October 9, 2014
  15. Montana Public Radio, "Election Protection," January 17, 2014
  16. Billings Gazette, "Gazette opinion: The voting rights threat on November ballots," September 14, 2014
  17. Bozeman Daily Chronicle, "Editorial: Voting should be easier, not more difficult," September 29, 2014
  18. Montana Kaimin, "Vote "No" on LR-126," October 28, 2014
  19. Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, “Petition Challenging the Legal Sufficiency of LR-126,” accessed January 27, 2014
  20. Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, "Public View Docket," accessed January 27, 2014
  21. Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, "Response/Objection - Petition for Write (Attorney General)," accessed January 27, 2014
  22. Missoulian, "Montana Supreme Court OKs voter registration referendum," February 5, 2014
  23. Helena Independent Reporter, "Referendum to end Election Day voter registration stays on ballot," February 6, 2014