Judge urges state prosecutors to obtain voter ID fraud evidence | 406 Politics

A district court judge on Monday urged attorneys for the secretary of state to obtain evidence of the alleged tampering that fueled new voting restrictions passed by the state legislature last year.

During a hearing in Yellowstone County District Court on Monday for Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen’s motion to dismiss numerous allegations that these new election laws are unconstitutionally restrictive, Judge Michael Moses asked several Jacobsen’s attorneys repeatedly to provide evidence to the Legislative Assembly that student ID cards are more easily forged. such as driver’s licenses or other forms of government identification cards.

Senate Bill 169 tightened voter ID requirements, making photo ID mandatory to vote in person and requiring student ID cards to be accompanied by a second piece of ID . The bill was among Jacobsen’s priorities in the 2021 Legislature and was passed along party lines by Republican lawmakers seeking to bolster election security and build confidence in the process following allegations without basis for irregularities in the 2020 election. Democrats have challenged the law in court, arguing that no cases of voter fraud have emerged from the prior use of student ID cards to vote.

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“If you sit in this courtroom for a year, you’ll see forgeries of all kinds of things,” Moses asked John Semmens, a Crowley Fleck Law attorney representing Jacobsen in the case. “…What’s the proof that it’s easier to cheat on a student ID than a driver’s license?”

Semmens had argued in the hearing that the legislature was well within its authority to enact such policies and that the plaintiffs had failed to make a viable argument as to why lawmakers were off limits. The framers of the constitution, he pointed out, acted with “humility” when defining the right to vote in the state constitution, but left lawmakers with discretion to regulate elections.

“The position of the Legislative Assembly is that it does not need to establish a factual record,” Semmens said.

Monday’s hearing was a marathon of arguments for and against four election laws passed by the 2021 Legislature: House Bill 176, which ended voter registration on Election Day; House Bill 530, which prohibits people from collecting and submitting other people’s ballots if they receive financial compensation for doing so; and House Bill 506, which prevents anyone who turns 18 before Election Day from getting a ballot before their birthday.

Three lawsuits filed against Jacobsen last year challenging the four laws have since been consolidated into the case heard in Moses court on Monday. The plaintiffs include a coalition of Native American tribes, suffrage groups and the state’s Democratic Party. In April, Moses temporarily blocked the four laws to be implemented while the trial unfolds, although the Supreme Court reinstated two of them, SB 169 and HB 176, the following month.

In his back and forth with Semmens, Moses repeatedly pointed to a line in a recent Montana Supreme Court decision that struck down the Legislature’s attempt to allow concealed carry of firearms on campuses. academics. This quote, raised earlier in the hearing by plaintiff’s attorney Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, reads: “We must also consider that the Montana Constitution is a prohibition of legislative power, rather than a grant of power.

Moïse, prompting the quote, said the legislature should also uphold the standards, rather than legislating without safeguards.

“We all live together because there are three of us in this little arrangement of democracy,” Moses said. “Sometimes we have to push our way through those fine lines and gray lines.”

Moses did not rule Monday on Jacobsen’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, but took the arguments under advisement. He has, however, begun discussing with lawyers arrangements for the upcoming trial in the case, scheduled for August 15, in just over a month.