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Ruling Says 18-Year-Olds Be Allowed Access To Ballots

Judge Moses of the Thirteenth Judicial District Court held July 27 that House Bill 506, which restricts ballot access for voters who turn 18 in the month before Election Day, violates the Montana Constitution.

Youth plaintiff groups, including Montana Youth Action, Forward Montana Foundation, and Montana Public Interest Research Group (MontPIRG), challenged this bill and two others last fall, alleging that the Montana Legislature had discriminated against the youngest members of the electorate. The groups argued these bills weave a web of administrative challenges that deter and sometimes prevent young people from voting.

The plaintiffs said an administrative restriction violated the Montana Constitution’s right to suffrage, right to equal protection and the guarantee that minors have equal access to all fundamental rights.

The Court agreed, ruling as follows: “The version of HB 506 that the Legislature ultimately passed arbitrarily subjects a subgroup of the electorate to different requirements and irrationally forecloses an avenue of voting available to all others in the electorate.”

The plaintiffs are represented in their ongoing suit by Rylee Sommers-Flanagan and Niki Zupanic of Upper Seven Law and by Ryan Aikin of Aikin Law Office.

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