Linda McCulloch: Ballot measure threatens voting rights

2014-08-17T00:00:00Z 2014-09-10T16:10:05Z Linda McCulloch: Ballot measure threatens voting rightsBy LINDA MCCULLOCH Montana Secretary of State The Billings Gazette

Women across the state are preparing to vote in the general election on Nov. 4. Current law secures their right — and the right for every voter — to register and cast a ballot through the close of polls on Election Day. It’s a fundamental liberty that should be secured and protected as we celebrate 100 years of victories in the women’s suffrage movement, and the freedom for all Americans to participate in elections.

On Nov. 3, 1914, Montana voters granted full voting rights to non-Native women. The 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920. When American Indian women gained access to the ballot in 1924 under the federal Indian Citizenship Act, no person in Montana was denied their right to vote on the basis of gender.

It’s ironic that on this centennial anniversary of a step toward equal suffrage, your right to vote is under attack. This year, among the candidates and local issues, every ballot will contain two proposals referred to voters by the Montana Legislature. One of these legislative referenda threatens to revert state law back to a time when our families, friends and neighbors were handily denied access to the polls on Election Day.

Appearing on the ballot as LR-126, the proposal sets out to eliminate Election Day voter registration in Montana. Election Day voter registration has successfully secured voting rights for more than 29,000 Montanans since 2006 (that number increases when you include local elections). It’s a good law that acts as a failsafe for any person who needs to register, change or update their information in order to vote in a statewide election. In fact, the majority of voters who use Election Day voter registration are hardworking Montanans who have recently moved across their county or the state and need to update their address in order to cast a ballot.

There is no reason to change a law that works, especially when that law secures your fundamental right to actively participate in our democracy.

As you consider the choices on your ballot, consider all that has been accomplished to guarantee your right to vote. Let’s work on solutions that increase turnout and enhance the overall integrity of elections in Montana. No state that has Election Day registration has ever taken that right away from the voters. Let’s make sure Montana isn’t the first state to do so.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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