Student Voting Guide | Montana

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Montana.  If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.


In Montana, you can register in person at the county election office at any time before the election, including on Election Day.[1] Regular registration, which is available at more locations and can be done through the mail, ends 30 days before the election.[2] You can download and print a form here. If you register by mail your application must be postmarked by 30 days before the election and received no later than three days after registration has closed.[3] If you submit your application on time but make a mistake on your form, you may correct it prior to the close of polls on Election Day.[4] You will have to show identification when you register (see section on Identification below).

You can register to vote if you will be 18 by the next election.[5] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact your local election officials.


Montana law defines your voting residency as your place of fixed habitation to which you intend to return after being away.[6] Nothing in the election code requires intent to remain permanently or indefinitely, just that you intend to make Montana your home for now. 

At School. Students can establish residency in Montana if they have a present intention to remain at their Montana school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home.[7] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.  The website of the Secretary of State states plainly that students who live at school can choose whether to register at their prior address or at school, so long as they only vote at one address.[8]

At Home. Students who lived in Montana prior to attending school and who wish to establish or keep their Montana voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ address), should have no problem doing so unless they have already registered to vote in another state. Like most states, Montana allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the county or state to attend school. The only way you will lose this residency is if you “abandon” it by asserting residency in a new state. Registering to vote in another state is considered an abandonment of residency in Montana.[9] If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Montana with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home. 

Voting in Montana may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents.

Challenges to Residency. You have the right to cast a ballot as a student in Montana regardless of whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. Your eligibility to vote can be challenged only if another registered voter files a signed affidavit challenging your eligibility to vote, either before or on Election Day.[10] You can fight a challenge by signing an affidavit swearing your eligibility to vote and providing evidence on your behalf.[11] If the challenge is made prior to the close of regular registration, the election administrator will question you and the challenger, review all the evidence, and make a final eligibility determination.[12] If the challenge is made after the close of registration or on Election Day, you will be able to cast a provisional ballot.[13] If you cast a provisional ballot, you must verify your eligibility to vote in person, by fax, or by email before 5 p.m. on the day after Election Day, or by mail postmarked on the day after Election Day for your ballot to be counted.[14]

Any challenge made solely on the basis of your student or tuition status is invalid.[15]


All Montana voters will be asked to show identification before voting.[16] Almost any type of unexpired photo ID displaying your name is accepted, including a driver's license, school ID, state ID, or tribal ID.[17] Alternatively, you can show a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, notice of confirmation of voter registration, government check, or other government document with your name and current address.[18]

If you do not have identification at the polls, you are still entitled to cast a provisional ballot.[19] Your ballot will be counted if your signature on the ballot matches your registration signature.[20]

Absentee Voting

Any registered voter may vote absentee for any reason.[21] You must request an absentee ballot; applications are available online at the Secretary of State’s website. Absentee voting applications are to be delivered to the county election office either in person or by mail, and must be received before noon on the day before Election Day.[22]

You may submit your completed absentee ballot either by delivering it in person or via mail to the election office, special absentee election board, or to a polling place in your county.[23] Absentee ballots must be received before 8 p.m. on Election Day,[24] so if you are mailing your ballot, make sure to mail it early enough for it to be received in the mail by Election Day. 

If you are a first-time Montana voter who is voting absentee, you must include a photocopy of acceptable identification with your absentee ballot.[25] Accepted forms of identification are the same as those allowed for in-person voting (see section on Identification above).[26]

Early Voting

Montana has early voting, conducted through the use of absentee ballots voted in person, which begins as soon as the ballots are available and continues through Election Day.[27] At your county election office, you can vote any precinct’s ballot for that county.  You should check with your county elections office for the exact dates, times, and locations for early voting.

Last Updated August 15, 2014

[1] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-2-304; Mont. Admin. R. 44.3.2015. Contact your election office to be sure you know where to go to register and vote.

[2] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-2-301 (1).

[3] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-2-301(3).

[4] Mont. Code Ann. §§ 13-2-301(4), 13-2-304(1)(a).

[5] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-1-111.

[6] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-1-112(1). 

[7] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[8] Montana Voting Information, Mont. Sec’y of State, (last visited July 28, 2014).

[9] Mont. Code Ann. §§ 13-1-112(4); 13-2-402(6). 

[10] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-301(1).

[11] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-301(4).

[12] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-301(3)(a).

[13] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-301(3)(b).

[14] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-15-107(1).

[15] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-301(2 (listing grounds for challenge).

[16] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-114(1). 

[17] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-114(1)

[18] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-114(1)

[19] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-114(2).

[20] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-15-107(2).

[21] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-201(1).

[22] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-211(1).

[23] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-201(2)(e).

[24] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-201(3)

[25] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-201(4).

[26] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-201(4).

[27] Mont. Code Ann. § 13-13-222(1).