We are looking for a visualization of the distance that voters (particularly rural & reservation voters) have to travel to cast their ballot in Montana. We’re also interested in demonstrating how accessible/not accessible polling places are for people who don’t have reliable transportation–are there bike lanes? Are there sidewalks? Are there public transportation options available?
In 2016, FMF worked alongside student government leaders at Montana State University to move the polling location that served the on-campus precinct onto campus. For the last 4 years, the polling location that served the on-campus precinct was over 2 miles away with no access by bike, on foot, or by public transportation. From 2014-2018, we saw an 194% increase in voter turnout in this precinct. Access to polling locations is a significant factor in voter turnout, and this project would help us demonstrate the impact to elected officials.
We have access to the Secretary of State voter file (all of the voter data–name, address, where they vote/polling location and what elections they’ve voted in) and census data.
We are envisioning visual representations of the data, potentially including a map. Our primary focuses for this project are:
We plan on sharing this report with partners, supporters, and other stakeholders in our work, as well as elected officials such Secretary of State and County Clerk & Recorders, and Montana University System officials and partners.
As more counties consider consolidating polling locations because of budgets, these maps will illustrate effects of shifting/consolidating polling locations, and the potential impact of new voter restrictions or pro-active election reforms, like the addition of satellite voting offices. If it’s clear how current and future voting laws and implementation of those laws affect particular populations, we will be better equipped to fight for equal access at the polls.