Montana Youth Action et al. v. Secretary of State

During the 2021 legislative session, the Montana Legislature passed a cocktail of laws burdening Montanans’ right of suffrage.  Three youth civic engagement organizations—Montana Youth Action, Forward Montana Foundation, and the Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG)—challenged three of those laws, recognizing that the cumulative effect of burdensome voting laws falls with particular weight on young voters.  House Bill 176 would eliminate Election Day voter registration; Senate Bill 169 would downgrades student ID to a second-class form of voter ID; and House Bill 506 would prohibit ballot distribution to voters who will meet eligibility requirements by Election Day, but are not yet 18 or have recently moved.  Together and separately, these laws unconstitutionally burden Montanans’ fundamental right to vote, subverting the will of Montana voters and upending norms they have come to rely on.  The case was consolidated with two others that challenged two of the same laws, as well as House Bill 530, which would prohibit paid ballot collection and similarly burden the right to vote.

On April 6, 2022, the court granted the consolidated plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, enjoining all four laws.  In June 2022, the district court permanently enjoined HB 506 following summary judgment briefing.  In September 2022, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the preliminary injunction.  And, following a nine-day bench trial, the district court permanently enjoined the laws.  As a result, Montana voters were able to use Election Day registration this November, 18-year-olds received their ballots at the same time as older Montanans, and onerous voter ID laws reverted to a simpler form.  On March 27, 2024, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the District Court's rulings.

Filings      /      Press

Bench Trial (August 15th - August 26th, 2022)

Mariah Thomas, MontPIRG, Montana Youth Action win final case for election day voter registration, use of college ID, Montana Kaimin (September 30, 2022)

Sam Wilson, GOP election laws violate MT Constitution, judge rules, Independent Record (September 30, 2022)

Alex Sakariassen, Judge: New voter laws “unconstitutional” and permanently enjoined, Montana Free Press (September 30, 2022)

Darrell Ehrlick, Judge strikes down three Montana voting laws as unconstitutional, Daily Montanan (September 30, 2022)

Shaylee Ragar, Judge strikes down voting restrictions, saying they 'severely' burden voting rights, Montana Public Radio (September 30, 2022)

Meridith Depping, Election laws passed during 2021 Montana Legislative Session ruled unconstitutional, KULR8 (September 30, 2022)

Jonathon Ambarian, Montana district judge rules three election laws unconstitutional, KTVH Helena (September 30, 2022)

Missoula Current, ‘Unconstitutional:’ Court Overturns 3 Montana GOP Election Laws (September 30, 2022)

NBC Montana, Montana court rules 2 state voting laws unconstitutional (September 30, 2022)

Alex Sakariassen, How Montana’s new election laws failed legal muster, Montana Free Press (October 6, 2022)