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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Renewable Energy Group Can Collect Ballot Signatures Remotely, State Says

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A group backing a Montana voter initiative says it’s been given the green light to collect signatures remotely in order to qualify its issue for the November ballot. It’s the first group to find a workaround during social distancing guidelines. 

The Montana Secretary of State this month granted permission for one renewable energy ballot initiative to collect signatures remotely.

If passed, initiative 187 would transition the state to 80 percent renewable energy by 2034.

Russ Doty with the group MTCares says signature gathering stalled in March due to social distancing measures.

“We lost being able to collect signatures at major events and we also lost the ability to collect signatures because people weren’t getting together in large groups, so we gotta do something different and this will help," Doty said.  

The Secretary of State Office’s May 7 decision allows voters to download forms online, fill out and sign them and then mail them directly to county election offices.

Another ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use recently lost its bid to use software called DocuSign to collect electronic signatures.

A Missoula district court ruled in late April that the organizers failed to demonstrate this mode of collecting signatures is necessary. The court further expressed doubt about the security of collecting those electronic signatures.

MTCares says it’s collected a little more than 40 percent of the roughly 25,500 signatures it needs by June to qualify for the ballot.

The Secretary of State’s Office did not respond to YPR’s request for comment by the deadline for this story.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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