Big Sky Connection  On Independence Day, the United States celebrates its freedom and history. But with recent attacks on its institutions, some are taking a hard look at the state of the country's democracy. Comments from Nancy Leifer ("lifer"), president of board of directors, League of Women Voters of Montana.

Click on the image above for the audio.  This year, the United States marks 246 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed. (Jeff/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

July 4, 2022 - July 4th celebrates the founding of the United States' democracy - and some say it's time to recommit to defending that democracy.

In the wake of the "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen, and the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, folks like Nancy Leifer - president of the League of Women Voters of Montana board of directors - concerned about the state of the country's representative government.

She said in Montana, there's also been talk that elections can't be trusted.

"There's absolutely nothing going on here that warrants that," said Leifer. "It's just this narrative that these folks have come up with who don't want to admit that the views that they have are not well supported by the majority of Americans."

Voter fraud is very rare in the United States. In January, two women who are citizens of the Philippines voted in a Montana election and were subsequently arrested.

Before that, the Heritage Foundation database of election fraud stretching back to 1979 shows just one conviction in Montana for fraudulent use of absentee ballots.

However, Leifer said the Montana Legislature passed a number of laws that restrict access to voting based on the false narrative of widespread election fraud.

That includes getting rid of same-day voter registration, which she said is especially important for Native American voters who may only be able to make one trip to the polls.

"The other I.D. law specifically targeted students," said Leifer, "who are unable to come up with the right I.D. information now because their student I.D. from the institution where they're studying is not sufficient."

Those two cases will head to the state Supreme Court before the November election.

Despite the limitations on voter access, Leifer said she has a deep faith in Montanans. She's convinced Montanans can like each other without having to agree on politics.

"That's been undermined by the extreme partisanship that's gone on lately," said Leifer. "And so, I would invite everyone to step back from their partisanship and to remember that we are here, and we are all friends and neighbors, and we will be moving forward together."

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.