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Case Name Western Native Voice v. Stapleton VR-MT-0016
Docket / Court DV-2020-377 ( State Court )
State/Territory Montana
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On March 12, 2020, Western Native Voice, Montana Native Vote, and multiple Native American tribes filed this lawsuit in the Thirteenth Judicial District Court of Montana seeking to invalidate the Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act (BIPA). The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Montana ... read more >
On March 12, 2020, Western Native Voice, Montana Native Vote, and multiple Native American tribes filed this lawsuit in the Thirteenth Judicial District Court of Montana seeking to invalidate the Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act (BIPA). The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Montana and the Native American Rights Fund, sued the Montana Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Commissioner of Political Practices. They sought attorneys' fees and declaratory and injunctive relief based on their right to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and right to due process (both facially and as-applied) as provided by the Montana Constitution. Judge Jessica Fehr oversaw the proceedings.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that BIPA would inhibit Native Americans' ability to vote. The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck, Blackfeet Nation, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Crow Tribe, and the Fort Belknap Indian Community are located in rural areas and many tribal members lack the means to travel to deliver their ballots. Furthermore, higher levels of poverty in the communities make it less likely that the tribal members can use mail ballot drop off locations at polling places without the benefit of assistance. These factors often cause tribal members to rely on collection services to cast their votes.

Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote are two independent organizations that collect ballots from tribal members in remote regions. BIPA would limit organizers from collecting more than six ballots per person, and impose fines for violations. The two organizations allege that this limit inhibit their ability to collect ballots since they could not fund or train enough collectors to sufficiently reach the remote locations of the tribes. The plaintiffs further alleged that the lack of ballot collectors would lead to restricted ability to vote among the tribal members.

On May 20, the trial Court issued a temporary restraining order blocking BIPA after finding the defendants' arguments of timeliness unpersuasive. As of May 24, the case is ongoing.

Justin Hill - 05/24/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
General
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
American Indian/Alaskan Native
Voting
Election administration
Vote dilution
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Montana Attorney General
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices
Montana Secretary of State
Plaintiff Description Voting Rights Organizations and Native Americans Tribes
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 03/12/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Complaint
VR-MT-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/12/2020
Source: ACLU
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Order Setting Hearing on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction
VR-MT-0016-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/20/2020
Source: ACLU
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Judges Fehr, Jessica T. Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-MT-0016-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alvernaz, Lillian (Montana) show/hide docs
VR-MT-0016-0001
De Leon, Jacqueline (Colorado) show/hide docs
VR-MT-0016-0001
Ho, Dale E. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-MT-0016-0001
Landreth, Natalie (Alaska) show/hide docs
VR-MT-0016-0001
Rate, Alex (Montana) show/hide docs
VR-MT-0016-0001
Thomas-Lundborg, Alora (New York) show/hide docs
VR-MT-0016-0001

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