Montana Voters Approve Ballot Questions

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — Montana voters approved four of the five ballot questions before them Tuesday, and appeared to be favoring the fifth.

Voters overwhelmingly approved measures that require parental notification for minor girls’ abortions, deny services for illegal immigrants, declare that corporations are not people and forbid governments from imposing health insurance mandates.

The last question is whether to ratify a law that severely limits the use and distribution of medical marijuana. Voters appeared to favor that measure with about half the votes to be counted early Wednesday.

Bob Brigham, the campaign manager for the group that opposed the law, conceded it appeared to be headed toward ratification.

“The politicians won and patients lost,” Brigham said in a statement. “Montanans are clearly sick and tired of debating medical marijuana, when the conversation should be about when and how we’re going to end prohibition, just as two states did tonight.”

He was referring to marijuana legalization ballot questions in Washington and Colorado.

A lawsuit questioning the legality of the measure is still pending in court.

One initiative that had 75 percent approval with about half the vote counted creates a state policy that corporations are not people entitled to constitutional rights, and direct Montana’s congressional delegation to introduce a constitutional amendment establishing that.

The initiative got on the ballot amid the backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that ruled a ban on corporate spending in federal elections was a restriction of free speech.

Backers of the initiative say there should be a level playing field in campaign spending by prohibiting corporate contributions and limiting political spending.

Opponents say corporations are formed by individuals who don’t give up their rights because they pool their resources and speak with a common voice.

Another initiative that had the support of more than 66 percent of voters prohibits governments from mandating that people buy health insurance.

The question is a legislative referendum placed on the ballot by majority Republicans who thought the measure had a better chance of passing by popular vote than getting past Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

The question was drafted in reaction to the health insurance mandate in President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which was opposed by Republicans.

The two other ballot questions also were authored by Republican lawmakers

One, which requires parents to be notified prior to an abortion for a girl under 16, took nearly 70 percent of the vote. A doctor who provides an abortion without proper notification could receive a six-month prison sentence and a $500 fine, according to the initiative.

Supporters say parents should be involved in such an important decision, and the child can petition a youth court judge to obtain a waiver of that notification in some cases.

Opponents argue that the government should stay out of such decisions and the right to privacy extends to all Montanans in making private medical decisions.

The fifth and final initiative would deny illegal immigrants from obtaining state services from student aid to disability benefits.

The initiative, which was approved by nearly 80 percent of voters, would require every person who seeks any state service to prove that he is a U.S. citizen or in the country legally.

Supporters say it will prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining services at the expense of citizens and prevent them from taking jobs at a time of high unemployment.

Opponents say the initiative will put the burden of identifying illegal immigrants on employers.