Election law bills make their way to Gov. Gianforte's desk

HELENA, Mont. - The 67th Legislative Session is ending Thursday after more than 1,300 bills have been introduced in the Legislature. Fewer than 300 have already been signed into law, and an additional 300 bills are on their way to the governor's desk.

Almost two dozen of those pieces of legislation will change what the voting process looks like here in Montana.

To date, Governor Greg Gianforte has signed 10 bills changing election rules into law, while an additional 11 are on their way to his desk.

The biggest changes voters will see this coming election cycle are changes in hours of operation for polling places. In addition, if you want to register to vote, a driver's license or the last four digits of your social security number are necessary.

College students not from Montana will have to show additional documentation, other than a student ID. Those against the bill call it voter suppression.

"What this bill is attempting to do is create artificial barriers between eligible Montana voters, people who have every right to participate in their democracy, and trying to cut them off from their constitutional right to vote," Sen. Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula) said.

Republicans defend this bill as a way of making sure that only Montanans are voting in Montana elections.

"It makes it a lot easier for our election officials to track down to make sure that people are who they say they are,” Sen. Doug Kary (R-Billings) said. “There is nothing here that takes away from anybody's voting rights."

Gov. Gianforte is also considering a bill that would require the Secretary of State to adopt rules on election security. He has signed a bill that cleans up the list of who is actually registered to vote on an annual basis.

Even though the legislative session is expected to end Thursday, April 29, Gov. Gianforte does not have to sign these bills into law before then. 

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