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The latest Montana politics, elections and Legislature news.

Judge Hears Motions Over Open Primary Lawsuit

Montana Republican Party
Montana Republican Party
The Montana Republican Party has sued the state to force closed primary elections in Montana.

Both sides in the Montana Republican Party's lawsuit to close its primary elections appeared in Federal Court in Helena today. Judge Brian Morris presided over a motion hearing. The actual trial, if there is one, will happen later. But it provided a preview of arguments both sides might use at trial.

Representing the Ravalli County Republican Party, attorney and state Representative Matthew Monforton argued that allowing anyone to vote a Republican ballot in a primary is just plain unconstitutional. Judge Morris asked how long has it been unconstitutional?

Monforton responded, since the first amendment. He means that the first amendment establishes a right of association, a right to know who's voting in your party's primary, and an open primary such as Montana’s doesn't fulfill that right.

Judge Morris appeared skeptical of Monforton’s position and interrupted him multiple times to ask pointed questions.

Representing the state, assistant attorney general Stuart Segrest said the Republican Party can already exercise its right of association by asking people to sign a membership list. Segrest said they just want the state to create the list for them, by requiring voters to register Republican if they wish to vote in the GOP primary.

Each side asked for a summary judgment in its favor, and the Republican Party is also asking for a preliminary injunction to prevent an open primary from occurring before the case is tried. Judge Morris says he will rule on the motions on a couple weeks.

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