Archive for State Admin
After returning from their spring break vacation, Republican lawmakers were quick to return to their old tricks to make it harder for Montanans to vote.
The House Republicans today gave initial approval to a bill that would restrict the types of identification voters can present to qualify to vote.
Currently, voters have several options in order to verify that they are eligible to vote. They can present a state issued ID or they can present a utility bill, bank statement, pay stub, voter registration card or any other government document that confirms the address of the voter. This method has worked pretty well. Montanans can easily access the ballot and there haven’t been any major problems with voter fraud. In fact, most election related controversies are when Republicans try to stop Montanans from voting.
This Republican bill will make it harder for Montanans to vote. It seeks to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Under this measure, a state issued ID card would be the ONLY valid way to verify your address. This presents problems for a whole number of Montanans.
This bill is part of the Republican agenda to make it more difficult for Montanans to vote. Similar measure the GOP have pushed have been met by the Governor’s VETO branding iron.
Veterans’ issues were one of the prevailing themes at the Montana Capitol today.
This morning, House Democratic Leader Rep. Jon Sesso’s bill that would authorize construction of the Southwest Montana Veterans’ Home in Butte was heard in the Senate Finance & Claims committee. Currently, the state has two veterans’ homes, one in Glendive and one in Columbia Falls (more on this one later). The state also has 108,000 veterans within its borders, 1/3 of which are in southwestern Montana.
With only the two existing veterans’ homes, veterans from Butte that go to live in one of these homes will be more than 200 miles from their family if they go to Columbia Falls and more than 400 miles from their family if they go to Glendive. These huge distances put barriers between our veterans and their families that continue to reside in their hometown. This can lead to isolation of our veterans.
If this home is constructed in Butte, veterans will have the opportunity to stay closer to their families. This will greatly improve their quality of life.
The committee overwhelmingly passed the measure. It now goes to the full Senate for debate.
Also today, the House State Administration Committee heard a resolution that would study the possibility of privatizing the Columbia Falls Veterans’ Home.
Earlier in this session, Republicans pushed a measure that would privatize the home and reduce the quality of care for veterans there. After public outcry and protests from Democrats, Republicans were forced to reinstate funding for the facility.
Opponents of the measure contend that this study is an attempt to open the door to covertly privatizing the home. They suggested that rather than privatizing and reducing the quality of care provided, the legislature should pursue other measures to ensure the home is running efficiently.
Today, Republicans in the House gave initial approval to a measure that would dramatically re-write the way our judicial system works in the state. The measure would put to the voters a ballot measure to elect Montana Supreme Court justices from districts, rather than electing them on a state-wide basis as they currently are.
This plan would dramatically change how our Supreme Court works. Currently, each justice is charged with the task of protecting and interpreting the constitution. Under the Republican proposal, would be looking out for the interests of moneyed interests in their district rather than protecting the Constitution.
In addition, voters would have less say about who serves on the Supreme Court. Rather than having their voice heard every election on justices, each district created under this bill would only vote on their representation once every eight years.
During floor debate, Democrats also brought up the point that this measure would open the door to corporate corruption on the Supreme Court. Corporations who want to ensure they have a favorable Supreme Court could spend a small amount of money in a few districts and dramatically change the make-up of the courts.
Finally, this bill would open the door to gerrymandering by politically powerful people to drowned out the votes of people they do not want adequately represented on the Court.
The bill will face final approval tomorrow in the House.
Today, along a party-line vote, the Senate gave final approval to a measure that would eliminate election day voter registration. The measure has already passed the House and will now go to the Governor to either be signed into law or vetoed.
After the passage of the bill, United States Senator Jon Tester said the Republican bill was “a punch in the face to American democracy.” He added, “We should be doing everything we can to increase voter participation, not deny Montanans the right to have a say in their government.”
Since 2006, more than 18,000 Montanans have taken advantage of election day registration in the state. Every county in the state has seen people use the service every year.
This bill is part of a series of Republican proposals that seek to restrict Montanans’ access to voting. They have proposed measures to create the strictest voter identification laws in the nation. Republicans also killed a proposal earlier this session that would move the state to an all mail-in ballot election–something that has seen significant increases in voter participation in other states.
We’ve told you about the GOP’s efforts to fundamentally rewrite our election laws in the state, in order to tilt the balance of the electorate to favor their Party. This effort continued this week as the Senate gave approval to two bills towards this goal.
The first, which received final approval from the Senate today, would increase the identification requirements for Montanans when they vote. Currently, Montanans simply have to provide an official document that verifies their address in order to vote. However, under the GOP plan, Montanans would be required to provide further forms of I.D. in order to vote. This additional burden would likely hinder tribal members, seniors and college students from exercising their right to vote.
The second bill, which received initial approval from the Senate today would eliminate election day voter registration in the state. This method of registration and voting has provided thousands of Montanans with access to the ballot. It also provides a safety-net for voters in the state to ensure their vote is counted. Under the GOP plan, election day registration would be eliminated, and the last day to register would be the Friday before the election. This bill would make it harder for Montanans to vote. We all know, the government should be in the business of ensuring every eligible voter has their voice heard, not in the business of restricting access to the ballot.