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HB 357 Restricts the Permitted Identification to Vote and Disadvantages People with Disabilities

The Montana House State Administration Committee heard HB 357 on February 9, 2017. The bill will go for a vote soon so it is important you contact committee members as soon as possible! Introduced by Rep. Derek Skees, the bill would drastically change current law by strictly limiting the types of identification that Montanans can use to register to vote and cast a ballot in Montana. Click here to the link to HB 357.

Although now one can use any current and valid photo identification to vote, including student identification, costco cards and credit cards. This bill only allows voters to use a current Montana driver’s license, Montana state id card, a permit to carry a concealed weapon, a passport, a public employee badge, military identification or tribal id.

The bill imposes an unfair burden upon people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities do not drive, either because their disability precludes their ability to do so or because of the expense of purchasing, maintaining, registering and insuring a vehicle. 

If a person doesn’t have a driver’s license, they must have a passport, or a tribal id, public employee id, concealed gun license or military id. If they don’t they have purchase a state id card which requires a fee, which can be an expense that a person receiving total of $735 a month on SSI cannot afford.

The bill does exempt some individuals from the id requirement, but it is a short list.  One group exempted are people with a physical disability so substantial that it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to travel to get qualifying identification. This would apply to only an extremely small group of people, as although getting an id can be extremely inconvenient and cost prohibitive to many people with disabilities, it would be "impossible" for very few. Also, it allows only those with physical disabilities and not sensory impairments like blindness to qualify for the exemption.

The manner by which someone can establish their qualifications for this exemption is not provided in the bill. 

Finally, the bill provides for a free state identification card for those who will turn 18 by the upcoming election. However, a person must demonstrate that they do not own any of the identification listed above, and that they are already registered to vote to qualify for this free state identification card. It will be difficult for someone to register to vote without already having identification. 

Please contact members of the House State Administration Committee listed below and tell them that you believe the right to vote should be protected for EVERYONE. Tell them that Montana should be proud of our excellent citizen participation in voting and that we should look for more ways to increase citizen participation in government and in voting.

House State Administration Committee
Forrest Mandeville (R), HD 57, Chair Email:  Phone: 406-690-1933
Bryce Bennett (D), HD 91, Vice Chair Email:  Phone: 406-546-3629
Wendy McKamey (R), HD 19, Vice Chair Email: Phone: (406)868-5006 or 406-866-3300
Jacob Bachmeier (D), HD 28, Member Send an Online Message by clicking here
Geraldine Custer (R), HD 39, Member Email: Phone:  406-351-1235
John Fleming (D), HD 93, Member Email: Phone:  406-745-4161 / 406-207-3188
Frank Garner (R), HD 7, Member Email: Phone: 406-471-7197
Edward Greef (R), HD 88, Member Email: Phone: 406-370-0581 / 406-370-0580
Denise Hayman (D), HD 66, Member Email: Phone: 406-587-7229
Jessica Karjala (D), HD 48, Member Email: Phone: 406-672-8681
Austin Knudsen (R), HD 34, Member Email: Phone: 406-539-4268 / 406-787-6369
Dennis R. Lenz (R), HD 53, Member Email: Phone: 406-671-7052
Jean Price (D), HD 24, Member Email: Phone: 406-452-9315
Walt Sales (R), HD 69, Member Email: Phone: 406-282-7435
Ray Shaw (R), HD 71, Member Email: Phone: 406-842-5039 / 406-596-5039
Derek Skees (R), HD 11, Member Email: Phone: 406-212-5493
Scott Staffanson (R), HD 35, Member Phone: 406-480-0467 / 406-798-3354
Kathy Swanson (D), HD 77, Member Email: Phone: 406-563-5312 / 406-560-1315
Peggy Webb (R), HD 43, Member Email: Phone: 406-248-1953
Susan Webber (D), HD 16, Member Email: Phone: 406-338-2159 / 406-450-1894