Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

State Supreme Court rules against electing justices by district

The Montana Supreme Court has affirmed a block on a referendum that would have asked voters to elect supreme court justices in districts instead of statewide.

In a 5-2 decision, the state’s high court ruled the referendum cannot appear on the November midterm ballot, saying it would diminish the right to vote in Montana.

The referendum would have established seven districts across the state and supreme court candidates would run for election within the districts they live. In their ruling, the five concurring justices wrote that the state high court is tasked with applying the law fairly statewide and is forbidden from representing any one constituency.

Justices Beth Baker and Jim Rice dissented and argued the issue should go before voters. Baker wrote the supreme court should not get in the way of voters and their right to change laws or the Constitution.

Republicans pushed for the referendum last legislative session, with sponsor Rep. Barry Usher saying supreme court districts would better represent voters on the court. In a statement Friday, he said the court is in “dire need of reform.”

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information