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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Green Party: Dem's Ballot Signature Lawsuit A Political Game

Montana Green Party
Montana Green Party

The Montana Green Party says they have witnesses ready to refute in court the claims that the signatures on petitions to put the party on Montana’s ballot this fall are invalid.

The Montana Democratic Party is suing the Greens and Montana’s Secretary of State, saying he improperly validated 183 signatures on those petitions. They argued their position in a hearing last Tuesday in Helena. That hearing resumes Monday, when defendants will get their first opportunity to present witnesses.

The Green Party’s State Coordinator Danielle Breck says they’ve reached out to people whose signatures Democrats charge are invalid.

"We’ve received signed declarations from 14 or 15 of them now, declaring that they did in fact, in good faith, sign that petition, and that it was their signature. And we’ve also got a couple who have agreed to come in and testify," Breck says.

In a separate complaint to Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, Democrats charge that some of the Greens’ signatures were collected by paid gatherers. That’s legal, but must be reported as campaign spending.

Breck says there’s, “some indication” that paid gatherers collected signatures to get Greens on Montana’s ballot, but her party didn’t pay them and they’re unaware if someone else did.

On Wednesday the Montana Republican Legislative Campaign Committee filed a motion to intervene in the Democrats’ lawsuit against the Greens and Secretary of State. The GOP says that if Greens are kept off the ballot, Republicans will have to spend more money to defeat Democrats in the three state legislative races in which Green candidates are currently running.

Breck says she doesn’t think Republican involvement in the lawsuit helps the Green Party. She says the suit is illegitimate and never should have been brought in the first place.

"This petty struggle between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party that is taking place right now in which they’re using us as a pawn is just horrible behavior. It’s the same old political games that they’ve played for decades," says Breck.

The Green Party is being represented in the lawsuit by Missoula Attorney Quentin Rhoades, who in the past has represented conservative groups and politicians including American Tradition Partnership and Art Wittich. Rhoades is representing the group for a contingency fee.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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