Montana Supreme Court reinstates election integrity laws just in time

Montana State Capital Building in Helena Montana

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The Supreme Court of Montana has temporarily reinstated critical election integrity laws just in time for the state’s June primary elections. The court’s order overturned a district judge’s injunction that blocked multiple election integrity bills.

On Tuesday, a five-judge panel of the state’s Supreme Court granted Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen’s request to stay a district court order attempting to block two measures passed by the legislature in 2021. The laws would eliminate election day voter registration and require additional proof of identification for voters using student IDs to vote. 

Jacobsen argued that election officials were already trained on the new laws, and municipal elections were held last year with the laws enacted. Therefore, changing voter laws close to an election would confuse voters. The state’s primary elections are on June 7.

The justices ruled in favor of Jacobsen, writing, “we found good cause to stay the District Court’s preliminary injunction as it disrupted the status quo, and maintaining the status quo would avoid voter confusion and disruption of election administration.”

The ruling states:

“However, we place greater weight on the fact that elections have actually been conducted under the statutes as enacted by SB 169 and HB 176—elections that a large portion of Montana voters participated in. Staying a preliminary injunction, which was not in effect during the 2021 elections, means that voters will continue to operate under the laws that have been in effect for over a year at this point.”

According to the Montana Free Press, citizens must register to vote before noon on the day before the election, as stated in HB 176, and voters will need to follow new identification requirements outlined in SB 169. 

Jacobsen celebrated the victory in an email, saying, “I am grateful that the Supreme Court recognized the importance of orderly, safe, and secure elections,” the outlet further reported. 

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