HELENA - A bill that repeals same-day voting, blamed for long lines and other problems last year, was pushed through a key House vote by Republicans on Thursday.
The vote along party lines showed the big split between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.
Democrats said same-day voting should be continued, and problems that cropped up last year should be fixed as election administrators become familiar with the system.
Republicans said late registration and voting should be stopped four days before the election to stave off confusion and potential voter fraud. The effort is supported by many election administrators who said same-day voting made it hard to maintain proper lists at the precincts of who had already voted.
The House approved the measure on a 51-49 vote. It faces a state Senate controlled by Democrats who largely oppose the measure, following one more procedural vote in the House.
Republican Secretary of State Brad Johnson said local election officials have asked his office to roll back the same-day voting law.
Johnson said voters should be responsible enough to get registered four days before the election as the bill calls for.
Last year, the high-profile Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and Democratic challenger Jon Tester sparked a huge last-minute turnout. Lines stretched out the doors at some polling places, forcing election officials to keep polls open hours longer than expected.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tom McGillvray, R-Billings, said he thinks procrastinators will be able to meet the new deadline, which would fall on the Friday before Election Day.
"It just isn't the workload, but it is very difficult to keep things orderly going through," Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, said of same-day voting. "We don't really want to see a very sacred privilege that we have get corrupted by machine politics, and that's what happens when you have same-day registration."
Democrats argued that the kinks will get worked out of the system as election officials become familiar with same-day voting.
The House also endorsed a measure Thursday to let political opponents sue each other over false campaign material. Supporters argued that the current appeal process with the commissioner of political practices takes too long to have an effect on elections.
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