Nancy Leifer and Nancy Maxson, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of Missoula
In November 2018 Montana voters approved the Ballot Interference Protection Act (BIPA) by voting for Legislative Referendum 129 (LR129). The League of Women Voters urged everyone to vote against it. We thought BIPA would make it harder for people to vote, not easier, especially those who live in rural areas and on reservations. Now five Montana tribes, including CSKT, have filed a lawsuit to stop BIPA because it disproportionately makes it harder for Native people to vote.
The folks behind BIPA claimed “Protecting your absentee ballot from interference” was a good idea, but they didn’t mention that it limited the number of ballots one person could deliver to the election office to just six. Instead of preventing supposed election fraud, BIPA makes it more difficult to vote absentee, especially for Native voters.
The lawsuit against BIPA notes that many Native voters prefer absentee ballots to voting in person because of the distances involved in getting to the polls and because polling places are predominantly White. Absentee ballots give you the option to take your time, read the ballot and make your voting decisions privately at your kitchen table. You then can mail in the ballot or, if you don’t have access to a mailbox, deliver the ballot to the county elections office or have someone else deliver it for you.
In the past, CSKT worked with Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, to help collect completed ballots and deliver them to county election offices. Under BIPA this is illegal. This severely hampers CSKT’s ability to ensure that everyone’s ballot makes it to the county election office.
With the Montana primary coming up June 2, it is critical that this suit against BIPA be heard and decided soon. The League of Women Voters is exploring how to lend its support to the lawsuit on behalf of the Tribes and will include further information about the suit in this column as it becomes available.
Nancy Maxson and Nancy Leifer are Co-Presidents, League of Women Voters Missoula.
The League of Women Voters has been registering voters and providing non-partisan voting information for over 100 years. Membership is open to men and women, citizens and non-citizens over the age of 16. For more information about the Missoula League, go to our website: lwvmissoula.org.