Don’t overburden election officials

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The Montana Legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate election-day voter registration, moving the deadline for registering to the Friday before a Tuesday election.

That’s not too much to ask of voters, who should be both informed and responsible. Opponents sometimes make the shrill claim that eliminating election-day registration is some kind of Republican scheme to keep people from voting, when the purpose is pretty obvious: improving election efficiency and public confidence in our electoral process.

Election-day registration, from our perspective, adds a layer of unnecessary mayhem that can be avoided.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, who opposes House Bill 30, reports that since a law allowing same-day registration and voting was implemented in 2006, there have been 28,329 people who have registered on election day.

Just last November, 1,028 people registered  on election day in Flathead County and even more were registered in Yellowstone County. The bottom line is that so many people piling in on election day causes unexpected logistical problems such as ballot shortages and delays in vote counting, and it raises speculation about the potential for voter fraud.

It is the busiest day of the year for county election officials across the state, and it shouldn’t be made as complicated as possible.

The best argument for having election-day registration is that it is a fail-safe measure for voters who discover at the last minute that they aren’t registered to vote, sometimes due to administrative errors. That was the case with some voters in November who thought they had registered while getting their drivers licenses, but discovered that their registration was never processed. Well, that is a problem unto itself that the secretary of state and the Department of Motor Vehicles have an absolute obligation to fix.

Election officials can also allow voters to use a provisional ballot if there is any question about eligibility to vote. That way registration issues can be resolved without burdening the system.

And under House Bill 30, voters will have all year — with the exception of one business day before the election — to register or verify that they are registered.

Again, is that too much to ask?

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Daily Inter Lake’s editorial board.

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