By: Kelsey Nickerson
Montana is one of the largest states in the county, but unlike its counterparts Texas and California, it is home to relatively few people and only accounts for 3 electoral votes. The state had some close elections as of late, and with a relatively small population, a small number of votes can play aa large part in election results. As in most states, the 2020 Election inspired Montana to enact much more stringent voting laws relating to registration, identification, and absentee voting. Many of these laws, despite the obvious problematic result of disenfranchisement of indigenous voters, were upheld under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee this past summer. In Montana, however, a new group has challenged the restrictive bill: young voters.
HB 506, along with instating various redistricting criteria, requires that “[u]ntil the individual meets residence and age requirements, a ballot may not be issued to the individual and the individual may not cast a ballot” via mail. Though it may seem like a reasonable limitation to place on mail-in voting, it does burden a certain portion of the population. Young people, whose participation has surged in Montana over the past few years, object to stringent absentee requirements that target both their age and transient nature. For example, young Montanans who will be 18 and eligible to vote on Election Day, but will not reach that age before the extremely early deadline to request a mail-in ballot, are prevented from voting if they can’t return to their district on Election Day. Additionally, residency requirements require 30 days of presence in a new location before an absentee ballot may be requested. With large portions of teens in Montana moving both away from home and out of state in the fall, there is little room for error in requesting an absentee ballot, and sometimes the request is impossible.