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Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — Montanans who want to cast a vote in next month's primary election must be registered with their county elections office by noon on June 6, under an order by the Montana Supreme Court.

The justices, in a 4-1 ruling Tuesday, said changes to election laws passed by the 2021 Legislature will remain in effect for the June 7 primary.

District Court Judge Michael Moses of Billings had ruled last month that a law ending Election Day voter registration appeared to unconstitutionally burden the right to vote and he temporarily blocked it for this year's primary election.

The Supreme Court lifted that injunction, agreeing with Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen that three local elections have been successfully held under the laws passed by the 2021 Legislature.

The court also noted the plaintiffs — the Montana Democratic Party, Native American organizations and youth advocacy groups — had not challenged the laws prior to the earlier elections.

“I am grateful that the Supreme Court recognized the importance of orderly, safe, and secure elections," Jacobsen said in a statement.

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Sheila Hogan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, has said the 2021 voting laws were an attack on Montanans' constitutional right to vote, and more greatly impacted young voters, Native voters, along with elderly and disabled voters and others who might have difficulty getting to the polls.

Western Native Voice, whose work includes registering Native Americans to vote, said in recent years its largest voter registration days have been on Election Days.

The organization "is creating a ‘drop everything’ emergency plan to get Native Americans in Montana registered to vote for the 2022 primary election,” executive director Ronnie Jo Horse said in a statement Wednesday.

The high court's ruling also means people using student IDs as identification when voting will also have to provide some other proof of residency, such as a utility bill or a pay stub with their name and address on it.

The biggest races in the primary are two U.S. House seats.

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