Our View: Make it easier for everyone to vote
April 1, 2014
A federal judge has ruled that the lawsuit against Blaine and two other Montana counties concerning Indian votings right can move forward.
Native American groups would like to have satellite election offices set up on reservations so it is easier for residents to register and vote.
In areas such as Lodge Pole at the far southeastern edge of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation people have to travel more than 100 miles round trip to the Blaine County seat of Chinook in order to register to vote, making same-day registration difficult at best.
There are arguments pro and con on the lawsuit, though it is difficult to counter the argument that turnout in tribal elections — where it is not necessary to travel to Chinook — is often twice as high as in general elections.
But a solution to some of the problems raised in the lawsuit is to make it easier for all people to register and vote.
Mail-in voting has been tried in many municipalities, including Havre. It has been wildly successful, resulting in substantially larger voter turnout percentages.
Statewide, the mail-in program would almost certainly result in higher turnouts and it would make it easier for people in rural area to vote. People in Hogeland as well as Lodge Pole would be able to vote without as much trouble.
Many people in Montana — on and off the reservations — find it difficult to get into town to register to vote. Some states are looking into online registration. Certainly this raises some security questions, but it is well worth looking into.
Making it easier to register and vote should be a high priority. Unfortunately, it has become a hot partisan, political issue.
Republicans seem to think that the people who avail themselves of late registration are from social and ethnic groups that tend to vote Democratic. Not always true, we believe.
But having a higher voter turnout is a goal that transcends politics. Republicans, we hope, will turn their efforts to convincing people who register late to vote their way rather than making it difficult for them to vote.