Montana Public Radio

Efforts Underway To Restore Green Party To Montana Ballot

Aug 11, 2020

Efforts are underway in state and federal court to restore Green Party of Montana candidates to the state's general election ballot just days after a state judge disqualified them.

District Judge James Reynolds last week granted the requests of about 500 people to have their names removed from petitions that allowed the Green Party to field candidates in the June primary election. The Green Party of Montana said it was not involved in ballot qualification, and it was later learned the Montana Republican Party paid $100,000 for the signature-gathering effort.

Without those signatures, the Green Party did not meet ballot-qualification standards, and Reynolds ruled the Green Party candidates could not appear on the general election ballot.

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton filed a notice of appeal with the Montana Supreme Court on Friday. His office has to file its brief by Wednesday in an expedited schedule to allow the Supreme Court to make a ruling before Aug. 20, when the general election ballots must be certified.

On Tuesday, two Green Party candidates and two Green Party voters filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Helena asking the court to overturn Reynolds' ruling. They argue the ruling disenfranchised those who voted for Green Party candidates in the primary election.

“The buyer’s remorse suffered by some of the Green Party petition signers well after the Party qualified for the ballot — and well after many of the Green Party voters had cast ballots — did not justify the state court’s cavalier disenfranchisement of Plaintiffs and nearly 800 other Green voters months after they had lawfully cast ballots in Montana’s primary election,” attorney Matthew Monforton wrote on behalf of candidates Royal Davis and Gary Marbut with voters Tom and Teresa Harsch.

Reynolds' order last week was the second time in two years that he disqualified Green Party candidates from the ballot after a petition filed by the Montana Democratic Party.

In 2018, Reynolds invalidated about 85 petition signatures challenged by the Montana Democratic Party on various grounds. Without those signatures, the Green Party of Montana did not meet the qualifying standards to be placed on the ballot.

The Montana Supreme Court upheld Reynolds' 2018 order, despite the disenfranchisement arguments, saying voters don't have a constitutional right to vote for the candidates of political parties that did not qualify for ballot access under Montana law.