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MT Secretary of State: Registering to Vote Could be Easier

In the last election, 60 percent of Montanans voted using absentee ballots, according to the Secretary of State's office. (JC/Flickr)
In the last election, 60 percent of Montanans voted using absentee ballots, according to the Secretary of State's office. (JC/Flickr)
October 4, 2016

HELENA, Mont. – Montanans only have one week left to register to vote through the mail. After that, they'll have to go into their local elections office if they want to vote this November. Late registration begins on Oct. 12 and runs through Election Day.

Montana is one of only 12 states that doesn't allow online voter registration. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said it's been a barrier to making voter registration easier, but state legislators have turned down online voter registration because of safety concerns.

"They always claim there's fraud involved, but they pay their taxes online, they pay their bills online, they bank online, they do a number of things online, and online voter registration is really the safest," she explained.

She said the state also lacks automatic voter registration, the system that allows people with driver's licenses who are eligible to vote to be placed automatically on the voter rolls.

Still, Montana's election system performs well, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts Election Center, which ranked the state 12th in the nation during the 2014 election.

In past elections, Native American activists have criticized Montana for not providing more access to voting in their communities. McCulloch said the state is addressing these concerns, and now leads the nation in protecting ballot access for native communities.

"Last October, I directed all counties with Indian populations to set up early voting offices on reservations," she said. "So right now in Montana, we have 13 satellite offices across 10 counties to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to vote."

Absentee ballots will be sent out on Oct. 14 and must be received by the local elections office or polling place by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. McCulloch said 60 percent of Montanans voted with absentee ballots in the last election.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT