BILLINGS, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court today affirmed a preliminary injunction blocking a state law that hinders Native American participation in the state’s electoral process.
The decision upholds a preliminary injunction against HB 176, which had ended Election Day registration in Montana. Native American voters living on reservations in Montana disproportionately rely upon Election Day registration to register and vote.
Recognizing that the constitutional right to vote “is the basic right without which all others are meaningless” and “the pillar of our participatory democracy,” the Montana Supreme Court today upheld an April 6, 2022, decision from the Montana 13th Judicial District Court, which found that Plaintiffs had made a prima facie showing that HB 176 violated the constitutional right to vote of Native Americans.
Plaintiffs Western Native Voice, Montana Native Vote, the Blackfeet Nation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, the Fort Belknap Indian Community, and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe brought the lawsuit, Western Native Voice v. Jacobsen, against HB 176. They are represented by the Native American Rights Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Montana, and Harvard Law School’s Election Law Clinic.
Plaintiffs have also secured a preliminary injunction against HB 530, a prohibition on paid third-party ballot collection in Montana, and yet another law that disproportionately and severely burdens Native Americans’ right to vote.
Last month, the Montana 13th Judicial District Court held a two-week trial in the case, involving challenges to HB 176, HB 530, and two other voting-related laws challenged by consolidated plaintiffs. The Court is expected to rule on the full challenges to those laws in the relatively near future.
The following is a joint statement from:
Alex Rate, Legal Director, ACLU of Montana; Jonathan Topaz, Staff Attorney, ACLU Voting Rights Project; Jacqueline De León, Staff Attorney, NARF; and Theresa J. Lee, Litigation Director, Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School: “We are pleased with the Montana Supreme Court’s decision affirming the preliminary injunction against HB 176, which disproportionately and severely burdens the constitutional right to vote for Native Americans in Montana. We look forward to receiving the upcoming decision from the Montana 13th Judicial District Court, as we seek to secure a permanent injunction against both HB 176 and HB 530.”
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