MISSOULA — Four Montana organizations launched an online portal to encourage voter registration. The Forward Montana Foundation, Montana Women Vote, MontPIRG, and Western Native Voice hove a long history of registering eligible Montanans to vote at events, in local businesses, and on college campuses. Following the COVID-l9 outbreak, the groups collaborated to adopt and bring their voter registration efforts online. Together, they aim to protect Montanans’ public health and access to democracy.

“With the drastic reduction of in-person voter registration efforts, Montanans needed a creative solution to make voter registration more accessible,” said Kelly Armington, Board Choir of MontPIRG. “This safe, secure, and non-partisan website will ensure that every eligible resident is able to get registered to vote even during this pandemic.

Currently, Montana is one of only eleven states without online voter registration. Until the state makes this important change, the organizations wanted to bring voters one step closer to a fully online experience. The encrypted online portal will be a secure and accessible way for Montana residents to register to vote from the safety of their homes.

“Having a secure platform where young people can register to vote is critically important to the health of our democracy and ensuring their voices and lived experiences ore elevated across all levels of our government,” said Amara Reese-Hansell, Program Director of the Forward Montana Foundation. “This is why Forward Montana Foundation is excited to be partnering with civic leaders to bring this important and needed service to voters in all corners of our state.”

The online portal will provide an opportunity for all Montanans to participate in the civic space. “Low-income Montanans deserve a voice in our elections, and we want to make registering to vote and voting as accessible as possible,” said Eleanor Smith, Program Director at Montana Women Vote. “This is a way we can make sure everyone has what they need to participate in our democracy, whether they are frontline workers, at home with kids, or dealing with job loss or other negative outcomes.”

While this is an important step in expanding access to voter registration, the participating organizations recognize there is more to be done. “For too long, systemic and policy barriers have prevented Montana’s Native American voters from fully and meaningfully participating in our democracy,” said Marci McLean, Executive Director of Western Native Voice.

“The portal provides a much-needed opportunity for Native residents to register to vote,” McLean continued. “In doing so, they claim their voices and space in conversations that determine the future of Indian Country. Western Native Voice will continue to collaborate with allies to dismantle barriers to the ballot. Our work is not truly complete until every Native voter is counted, represented, and has a voice.”

Interested Montanans can visit mtvr.org to determine if they are eligible to vote and complete the form. Completed and moiled forms must be received by the county elections office by May 26, 2020. Beginning May 27, voters must register in person at the county elections office. A list of in-person registration locations is available on mtvr.org.

Forward Montana Foundation aims to educate, engage, and organize young Montanans to shape their democracy to improve their lives and the lives of fellow Montanans. To learn more about the Forward Montana Foundation, visit forwardmontanafoundation.org.

Montana Women Vote works statewide to engage low-income women in the democratic process through leadership development, voter engagement, and policy advocacy. MWV works with low-income women, women in the LGBTQ community, Native women, and their allies, to fight for health care access, reproductive rights, economic justice, and violence prevention. To learn more about Montana Women Vote, visit montanawomenvote.org.

The Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG) is a student-directed and funded non-partisan organization dedicated to affecting tangible, positive change through educating and empowering the next generation of civic leaders. To learn more about MontPIRG, visit mtpirg.org.

Western Native Voice is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to increase Native American participation and engagement in voting and self-determination. We work to nurture and empower new native leaders and impact policies affecting Native Americans through community organizing, education, leadership, and advocacy. Our goal is to inspire native leadership so our communities flourish.

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