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Yellowstone County judge tosses out Montana law restricting ballot drop offs

Posted at 3:53 PM, Sep 25, 2020

A Yellowstone County judge tossed out a 2018 Montana law that restricts the number of ballots that can be dropped off at election offices.

Judge Jessica Fehr wrote in a Friday ruling that the Ballot Interference Prevention Act is unconstitutional and infringes upon tribal members' fundamental right to vote on reservations.

The ruling was a victory for tribal advocacy groups, who argued that tribal members in rural areas with limited transportation benefit from allowing one person to collect a large number of ballots to drop off.

The suit was brought forward Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, who were joined by Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck, Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Crow Tribe and the Fort Belknap Indian Community.

They filed suit against Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, Attorney Tim Fox and Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan.

The Ballot Interference Prevention Act was placed on the 2018 ballot by the Montana Legislature and passed with 63 percent. It restricted who could collect ballots to family members, other household members, caregivers or acquaintances, and limited an individual to dropping off six ballots each. Violators were subject to a $500 fine for failing to provide proper documentation.

Proponents of the law said they wanted to prevent ballot harvesting by outside groups.

Defendants have not indicated if they will appeal.

This is a developing story.