Five tribes in Montana, along with two get-out-the-vote organizations, filed a lawsuit in Yellowstone County on Thursday saying a ballot collection law violates the state Constitution because it unfairly restricts access to voting for Native Americans.
The Ballot Interference Protection Act (BIPA), approved by voters in the 2018 midterm election, puts parameters on returning voted ballots for another person. That includes a cap of six ballots that can be dropped off by one person and a requirement that the person dropping off the ballots complete a registry form, with a $500 penalty for violations.
Those limitations create challenges that especially harm Native Americans’ ability to vote, according to the lawsuit. There are eight tribes in Montana and seven reservations, home to roughly 70,000 people spread out over millions of acres in rural places that have limited access to mail service and residents who because of high poverty rates don’t have reliable ways to drive to post offices or polling places.