HELENA – The Green Party has qualified to have candidates on the 2020 ballot in Montana, the Secretary of State’s office said Friday.
Signature gatherers turned in more than 11,000 signatures in Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Silver Bow and Yellowstone counties by the March 2 deadline. Enough were accepted to meet the minimum qualification requirements, office manager Susan Ames said.
Candidates have until Monday at 5 p.m. to file.
It’s unclear who paid the out-of-state signature gatherers. Montana’s Green Party has said it wasn’t them.
Club For Growth Action, a conservative political action committee that supports state Auditor Matt Rosendale in his U.S. House race, filed paperwork in February to allow it to spend money to qualify the Green Party for the ballot. However spokesman Joe Kildea said they had changed their minds after learning someone else had undertaken the effort. They did not know who was paying for the signature gatherers, who said they were hired by Advanced Micro Targeting.
Democrats believe it’s a Republican-backed effort to draw votes away from Democratic candidates. The Green Party supports environmental and social justice causes and opposes corporate politics.
The Montana Democratic Party in mid-February alleged a dark-money group was tampering with Montana’s election and challenged Rosendale to call for the end of “outside efforts to undermine the integrity of our elections.”
Rosendale has said his campaign had nothing to do with the signature-gathering effort and “frankly it’s hypocritical that Democrats … claim to be the party of voter access but then fight so hard to restrict it.”
No other organization had filed paperwork with the Commissioner of Political Practices by Friday saying they planned to spend money on a minor party qualification effort. Any spending would have to be reported by April 15.
It’s the second consecutive election cycle in which someone besides the Green Party has tried to get the party on the ballot.
The Montana Democratic Party successfully challenged the validity of dozens of signatures in 2018 and a judge removed the Green Party from the ballot. It was never disclosed who was behind the qualification effort because state law did not require Advanced Micro Targeting to say who hired them.
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