State and federal courts ruled on Aug. 19 that the Green Party will remain off the November election ballot in Montana.
In a five to two decision, the Montana Supreme Court rejected Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s appeal of an early August state district court order.
Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge James Reynolds ruled Stapleton erred in not accepting requests to withdraw more than 560 signatures from a petition to qualify the Green Party for the November ballot. Reynolds said the party wouldn’t have made it onto the ballot without those signatures
The removal requests came after signers learned the Montana Republican Party funded signature collection efforts. The actual state Green Party said it wasn’t involved with the petition and isn’t fielding any candidates this election cycle.
Also on Aug. 19, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen rejected a request from two voters and two candidates running under the Green Party banner to put the party on the ballot. The judge declined to grant an injunction given the concurrent Supreme Court case.
Some political observers believe the appearance of Green Party candidates on the ballot could draw votes from Democrats.
The Montana Democratic Party and several petition signers filed the initial request to toss the Green Party from the November ballot.
“Today’s decision secures justice for hundreds of Montanas who were lied to and puts an end to this shameful attack on the integrity of Montana elections. I think it’s good news for Democracy,” said Democratic Party Executive Director Sandi Luckey.
Spenser Merwin, executive director of the state Republican Party, said in a statement that Democrats are trying to suppress Green Party voices and prevent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock from having another opponent in the U.S. Senate race.
Secretary of State Stapleton’s office didn’t return a request for comment. Stapleton is required to certify the November ballot by Aug. 20.