Backer Of Anti-Drug Initiative Says Counties Mishandled Signatures

Aug 9, 2016

  The backer of a proposed ballot measure to get rid of medical marijuana in Montana says county election officials mishandled thousands of signatures.

The I-176 ballot initiative to make all drugs illegal on the federal level also illegal in Montana received just over 20,000 signatures. It needed about 24,000 signatures to make it on to the 2016 ballot.

Safe Montana’s Steve Zabawa who sponsored the initiative says thousands of signatures were lost, and others incorrectly counted by Flathead County elections officials.

"And what we are doing now is, I think we still have a way to get to the 24,175, but we are having to go in and double check, triple check, the work that was done by the 56 counties. And we’ve found lots of mistakes."

Zabawa says his group has done a complete audit of all signatures rejected by counties across the state and found more than 2,000 errors. He says Safe Montana will send requests to the 56 counties for correction.

Flathead county election officials deny any wrongdoing.

In an emailed statement, Flathead County Clerk and Recorder Debbie Pierson said her office correctly counted all petition signatures. She said Zabawa can submit a copy of the petition signatures that he believes are in question so this can be resolved, but "to date, nothing has been provided."

Safe Montana’s Steve Zabawa says regardless of whether the ballot measure is voted on in November, Safe Montana will continue the pursuit to "keep marijuana shops off the corners in the state of Montana."

According to the Secretary of State’s office, 28 percent of I-176 signatures were rejected because they are not from registered voters.

Several other ballot measures with similar or higher rejection rates still made it on the ballot, including I-177 to prohibit animal traps on public lands, I-182 to expand access to medical marijuana, and CI-116 to ensure that crime victims rights are protected by law.