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Voting isn't difficult

 

April 15, 2021



I am writing in response to Jim Elliott’s column from April 1, regarding his comments about recent changes to voting laws. One take was that it is difficult and expensive to obtain photo ID for some, and for Montanans, you need a state-issued picture ID (or US passport) which requires a fee to obtain, thus resulting in having to pay a fee to vote.

After a quick internet search about how to vote in Montana, I was directed to the Montana Secretary of State website, clicked on the Elections tab, and easily found answers on how to register to vote as well as what you need when you vote. In both sections, not only is a state-issued photo ID needed, it further states that, “If you do not have a MT Driver’s License or MT ID card, you can provide the last 4 digits of your Social Security number (SSN). If you do not have a MT Driver’s License or MT ID card, or a SSN, attach a copy of photo ID that shows your name, or acceptable ID that shows your name and current address (paycheck stub; utility bill; bank statement; tribal ID; or government document).” This same information is also accepted at a polling place when you vote, and if you still don’t have any of those documents, you can vote a provisional ballot, which will be counted if you provide one of the items on the list by 5 p.m. the next day. Seems to me, Mr. Elliott, that just about anyone of legal age with a pulse would have the chance to vote by providing just one of the above-listed documents, many of which most folks already have and don’t cost them a dime (the website is sosmt.gov, in case you were wondering, Mr. Elliott).

Mr. Elliott also felt there are other ways to discourage voters by limiting voting places in certain areas, making them harder to get to, thus creating longer lines and wait times which results in thirsty voters (last time I waited in a long line, thirsty is not what I became). And the new law in Georgia, he claims, makes it a crime to give water bottles to voters waiting in line! Again, with a quick internet search of various sources, seems his version is incorrect. COVID-19 restrictions changed voting conditions for everyone, and many of these new laws, including Georgia’s, has codified many of these changes such as making drop boxes permanent, ensuring a minimum of 17 days of early voting to include Saturdays and Sundays, and eliminated citing a reason for an absentee ballot (just need ID). In regard to handing out water to voters in line, it has been a long-standing rule or law in nearly every state that campaign workers cannot be near voting places, which could intimidate or harass those waiting to vote. Giving out something such as bottled water is considered a gift of value, and is unlawful for someone waiting in line to vote to receive something of value from a campaign. Poll workers can hand out water, but not campaign workers. The new Georgia law clearly spells this out. (Didn’t you run a campaign or two, Mr. Elliott? I also find it odd how this bottled water concern became such a hot topic since I’ve yet to see a news story of voters in line dropping like flies due to dehydration.)

As someone who served 16 years in the Montana Legislature and four years as the chairman of the Montana Democratic Party as stated in your bio at the end of your column, I find it hard to believe that you aren’t familiar with just some of the information I have outlined above. I take my vote seriously, as with other constitutional rights, and would hope others do as well by registering to vote, educating yourself about the issues and candidates, and taking the time to properly fill out your ballot and cast it. There has been so much misinformation spewed and blatant lies made lately about voter laws, it would have been nice Mr. Elliott, that you as a former state legislator, would have used your column as a means to educate and encourage folks to vote, instead of discouraging and misinforming them.

Carrie Greene,

Trout Creek

 

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