Montana Legislature

Jan 17, 2013 9:01 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Voter ID bill gets public hearing at MT Legislature

HELENA - Some Montanans will need to get a different form of identification in order to vote if a Bozeman legislator gets his way.

A voter can go to polls and cast their ballot if they have a driver's license, a school ID, a tribal or military ID, a passport or any other official documentation that includes the voter's name and address in Montana.

State Representative Ted Washburn (R-Bozeman) wants to limit the eligible forms of ID to driver's licenses, state issued identification card and tribal identification cards.

He presented his bill before the House Administration committee on Thursday and no one stood up to support it.

However more than 20 people lined up to testify against it saying the bill would suppress the votes of elderly, disabled and rural Montanans.

Montana League of Women Voters President Nancy Detrick says getting a new form of identification could be troublesome to many Montanans.

"The burden would be greatest for citizens whom it is most cost prohibitive or inconvenient to take off work, get transportation, and stand in line and apply for documentation," Detrick testified.

The language in House Bill 108 states the intention of the bill is to "deter voter fraud" and "maintain the integrity of Montana's elections."

"It's important that everyone gets the right to vote that is a Montana citizen and that's the purpose of this bill," Washburn said.

Washburn has also introduced House Bill 30 to eliminate same day voter registration.

State Representative Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula) says the combination of these bills are an assault on Montana's fundamental right to vote.

"These bills send a scary message to the people of Montana," Bennett said in a press conference. "They seek to divide us by saying that some people should have more access to the polls than others and those aren't the values that we have in Montana."

Bennett says the Democrats on the House Administration committee will oppose moving the legislation forward, but they are outnumbered and it's unknown how the Republicans will vote.

Washburn's bill would allow the state to issue state identification cards at no cost to the voter.

The fiscal note on House Bill 108 shows the cost to issue free voter ID cards is estimated at $290,000 dollars this budget cycle. Then as the program continues to operate it will cost the state $90,000 dollars per year for every year after.

Click here to read House Bill 108, and click here to read House Bill 30.


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