Is “pursuing other interests” code for “ I want to figure out how to disenfranchise more people “?
After several weeks of employing controversial state-wide voter caging efforts, Montana GOP Director Jake Eaton resigned from his post to “pursue other interests.” He will be replaced by former Montana State Representative Larry Grinde.
Under Eaton’s leadership, the Montana Republican Party conducted unprecedented challenges of over 6,000 voters in Missoula, Butte-Silver Bow, Lewis and Clark, Deerlodge, Glacier, and Hill Counties. Though the party claimed that the challenges were non-partisan efforts to preserve election integrity and were based on where the most voter registration discrepancies occurred, the counties targeted were known to be Democratic strongholds.
Eaton’s resignation comes only one day after students at the University of Montana published an op-ed in the Missoulian condemning and calling for criminal penalties for the voter caging efforts conducted under Eaton’s leadership. These efforts have been determined to disproportionately affect the student population.
Such voter challenges are characteristic of nationwide partisan efforts to suppress voter turnout this election season, particularly among the student population, which continues to face numerous barriers to civic participation. The Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) is currently joining hands with local groups to fight youth voter suppression not only in Montana, but also in Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. People For the American Way Foundation and SAVE recently held a press conference on Capitol Hill with members of Congress highlighting some of the voter suppression tactics that disproportionally affect student voters.
With so much at stake in this election, and with so many young voters becoming civically engaged for the first time in their lives, it is imperative that we protect our democratic process from the egregious effects of the voter suppression tactics like those that happened in Montana and across the nation.