HELENA — A former Montana Democratic Party chairman wants to see the voter information submitted by the Green Party to qualify for the state ballot in this year’s elections, a request the secretary of state called a “challenge” to the Green Party’s petition.
Jim Larson filed his public records request with Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s office and election officials in four counties for the individual voter information and copies of the signatures submitted by the Green Party.
Larson’s letter, which was provided to The Associated Press by Stapleton’s office, does not say why he is requesting the information, and Larson did not immediately return a call or email on Monday.
The letter was submitted on March 15 with a request for a response within four days. Stapleton went public with the request Monday in a tweet that read “Democrat superdelegate Jim Larson is challenging Green Party qualification signatures in Missoula, Helena, Billings and Great Falls.”
“We are working with the clerks of the four counties being challenged, and helping all parties get the information they are seeking as quickly as practical,” Stapleton said in a written statement to The Associated Press.
Larson was the state party chairman until last year and a superdelegate — meaning he didn’t have to follow the state’s primary results when voting for a presidential nominee — to the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Stapleton verified the Green Party qualified for the first time as a political party in Montana on March 12, the deadline for candidates to file for office. Green Party officials put out a call for candidates that same day, and a half-dozen people filed under its banner for races for the U.S. Senate, House and a handful of legislative seats.
The politically left party could siphon votes from state Democratic candidates in an election year where Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is seeking a third term in office.
Montana Democratic Party officials did not return calls or emails for comment.
To qualify for political party ballot access, a party must have a candidate who got at least 5 percent of the vote in the last gubernatorial election or submit at least 5,000 signatures by registered voters from at least 34 state House districts.
The Green Party turned in more than 10,000 signatures from Cascade, Lewis and Clark, Missoula and Yellowstone counties, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.
It joined the Democratic, Libertarian and Republican parties as qualifying parties in Montana.
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