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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Secretary Of State Files Appeal In Green Party Ballot Case

Voting booths at the Missoula Public Library.
Josh Burnham
Voting booths at the Missoula Library.

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton is asking the Montana Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling that removed Green Party candidates from election ballots this November.

The appeal notice filed Wednesday challenges a ruling earlier this month from a district court in Helena that sided with the Montana Democratic Party, which argued the Green Party illegitimately gained access to the ballot.

The judge in that case agreed with Democrats that not all the signatures on petitions to put Greens on the ballot should have been counted for several reasons, including that some signatures did not match with registered Montana voters.

Stapleton, an elected Republican, is also asking the state Supreme Court to move quickly in hearing the appeal in order for the Secretary of State’s office to have time to finalize the general election ballot by August 23.

“I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will actually agree with our argument that this lawsuit has no standing, that this was never a legal case, this is a political case. The Montana Democratic Party wanted to eliminate a subsection of what they think of as their caucus,” Stapleton says.

Democrats say that if Greens were to get on the ballot, their party would have to spend more money and resources campaigning against the Greens.

If that happens, some political observes say it could give a small boost to Republicans in close elections this November, including the race between incumbent Democrat Jon Tester and his challenger Republican Matt Rosendale.

Democrats have also filed a complaint with the state’s top elections watchdog, alleging that an out-of-state political group financially supported the Green Party’s petition for ballot access without disclosing that spending. The Commissioner of Political Practices says a ruling on that complaint is expected in the coming days.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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