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In some states, Republicans alter election laws, even after winning

Montana Republicans had a terrific election cycle in 2020. They've decided to tilt the electoral playing field in their favor anyway ahead of 2022.
Image: Greg Gianforte
U.S. House of Representative elect Greg Gianforte delivers his victory speech during a special congressional election in Bozeman, Montana, on May 25, 2017.Colter Peterson / Reuters file

When it comes to Republican efforts to roll back voting rights, much of the recent national focus has been on Georgia, and for good reason: GOP officials in the state deliberately made it harder for voters to cast ballots in future elections.

The motivations behind the effort are indefensible, but at least they're rational: Georgia Republicans suffered some unexpected defeats in 2020, so they looked for ways to rig the system to improve their odds of success going forward.

In Montana, the politics surrounding election-law changes are a little different.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed measures Monday to end same-day voter registration and require additional identifying information from those who use a student ID to register to vote. "Montana has a long history of secure, transparent elections, setting a standard for the nation," Gianforte said in a statement. "These new laws will help ensure the continued integrity of Montana's elections for years to come."

There's no great mystery behind such changes: ending same-day voter registration is intended to limit voter participation. Changing the state's voter-ID law so that student ID cards are no longer sufficient is designed to discourage young adults -- who tend to be more progressive -- from casting ballots.

There were no problems in Montana's elections in recent years, and there were no breakdowns requiring new solutions. The integrity of the state's system of elections was never called into question.

Indeed, unlike in Georgia, Republicans in Montana had a perfectly good year in 2020. Donald Trump carried the state easily; Sen. Steve Daines (R) won re-election by a wider-than-expected margin over a well-liked former governor; Greg Gianforte (R) cruised to an easy win in the state's gubernatorial race over a well-liked incumbent lieutenant governor; and Matt Rosendale (R) easily won election to the U.S. House, overcoming defeats in previous cycles.

GOP candidates racked up these victories without a hint of fraud. The existing system worked as designed and far-right candidates benefited.

But as was the case in Iowa, where Republicans also had a good year, the party decided that success wasn't good enough. In Montana, the GOP-led state government decided they could tilt the electoral playing field in their favor, so they did.

Yesterday, Montana Democrats filed suit, claiming the two new election-law changes "violate the state's Constitution by putting unconstitutional burdens on young, low income, disabled and Indigenous voters." The litigation asks a state court to stop the measures from being enforced.

"In America, all attempts to silence Americans should be met with an immediate response," Sandi Luckey, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said in a statement to CNN. "The goal of the lawsuit is to stop Republicans from silencing voters, to protect fair elections, and the freedom to vote for everyone in Montana."