Big Sky Connection - It's National Voter Registration Day, and a Native American group in Montana is ensuring that people are registered, especially in light of changes to voter registration that lawmakers passed last year. Comments from Natanya O'Neill, field director, Western Native Voice.

 

Click on the image above for the audio. - Because of its population increase over the past decade, Montana will have two congressional districts this year instead of one. (Svetlana/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

September 20, 2022

Today is National Voter Registration Day, and one Native American rights organization in Montana is ensuring people are ready to vote in November.

With less than two months to go until Election Day, efforts to ensure people can cast their ballots are ramping up.

Natanya O'Neill, field director for Western Native Voice, said her group has been working in communities to check voters' registration status, which will make it easier on Nov 8.

"They have all of the information that they need, they're prepared, got their identification with them, and they know that they are able to vote," O'Neill explained. "With the changes in the laws last year, it is a learning curve for a lot of people."

In 2021, Montana lawmakers passed legislation affecting voter registration. One measure tightens voter identification laws so people who are registering with a student ID, for instance, need a secondary form of identification. Another measure eliminates Election Day voter registration, requiring people to sign up to vote by the Friday before Election Day.

A judge in Yellowstone County District Court has heard challenges to both laws and could make decisions on their legality before the November election. In the meantime, O'Neill emphasized people should be prepared to vote in what will be a consequential election. Because of the 2020 census results, Montana will have two congressional districts for the first time in 30 years.

"With the changes in the congressional seats that we've got, we need to make sure that people are aware of how much this will impact them," O'Neill urged.

Montana is also in the middle of redistricting on the state level, although maps will not be finalized until after the election.