Why inaccurate information was sent out to Montana voters A pamphlet sent to voters includes information based on laws passed last year by Republicans. But a district court judge struck down the laws late last month.

Late changes to election laws mean Montana voters were sent inaccurate information

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Voters in Montana are dealing with some confusing information. Pamphlets the state started sending out 45 days before Election Day include inaccurate details due to last-minute changes in election law. Here's Montana Public Radio's Shaylee Ragar.

SHAYLEE RAGAR, BYLINE: Montanans are able to register to vote on Election Day until 8 p.m., and IDs that don't include an address are acceptable at the polls. But the Secretary of State's pamphlet for voters says otherwise. It includes information based on laws passed by Republicans last year, eliminating same-day registration and tightening voter ID requirements. The pamphlets were sent to voters to meet a required deadline before the laws were struck down in court at the end of September.

RONNIE JO HORSE: The mail piece was so critical because that could have been their only interaction with the elections, and the information is wrong.

RAGAR: Ronnie Jo Horse is executive director of Western Native Voice, one of the advocacy groups that sued the state over its new election laws. She says she's concerned the pamphlets will sow confusion in rural Montana and on tribal reservations, where internet and cell service is spotty. Horse says she hopes the state distributes corrected pamphlets, something the state hasn't yet commented on. She says rural voters already face barriers to participating, like long drives to the polls.

HORSE: Just a few more hurdles, I think, would deter people from voting.

RAGAR: The snafu underscores how voting policies can change at the last minute with little time to educate voters. Montana was one of many states that passed restrictive new voting laws in recent years, some of which have been challenged in court. Connor Fitzpatrick, elections supervisor in Lewis and Clark County, says his office is spreading the word about the changes on its website, social media pages and by training election workers.

CONNOR FITZPATRICK: By keeping all those avenues open, we can hopefully get as many people in the know about the rules that we're using as possible.

RAGAR: Fitzpatrick says his office has been preparing to deal with changes in election law since the lawsuits were filed last year. But getting updates to voters is a challenge, especially as the office also tries to combat misinformation about election fraud that swelled after the 2020 election.

For NPR News, I'm Shaylee Ragar in Helena, Mont.

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