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Montana voting rights trial moves into second week; state lawmaker testifies

Voting rights trial Day 7
Posted at 5:49 PM, Aug 23, 2022

BILLINGS — It's day seven of a voting rights trial in Montana, in which a Yellowstone County judge is hearing arguments over three new voting laws passed during the 2021 Legislative Session.

On Tuesday, a key witness for plaintiffs took the stand, bringing the unique perspective of a lawmaker deeply involved with voting rights legislation in Montana.

Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, has served in the Montana Legislature for eight years, representing House District 39—an area covering all of Treasure County and parts of Rosebud, Custer and Yellowstone counties.

Before serving in the legislature, Custer was clerk and recorder in Rosebud County for 36 years. Part of her duties included running elections.

"In Montana, we have so many election security measures. We have tons of them. I mean, every step of the way, everything you can think of," Custer said.

Custer is a Republican, but found herself at odds with members of her party in the 2021 Legislative Session regarding legislation affecting voting and election processes in Montana.

"They [the bills] were solutions looking for a problem," Custer told attorneys during examination.

Together the laws in question end election day voter registration, weaken the power of student ID cards at the polls, and prohibit compensation for ballot collection.

Legislators championing the bills say they enhance election security in a time of doubt in the process.

Several groups sued—saying the new laws intentionally disenfranchise certain voting groups, including Native Americans and young people.

"The feeling in the caucus is that college students tend to be liberal, so that’s the concern with them voting," Custer said, when attorneys asked her about discussions of voting and related legislation amongst her colleagues in the legislature.

The trial is set to wrap up on Friday.