News & Features

Montana Secretary of State Appealing Greens’ Ballot Removal

Corey Stapleton said the party's removal was intended to eliminate political competition for Democrats

BILLINGS — Montana’s Republican secretary of state said Thursday he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a decision that took the Montana Green Party off the November ballot.

The party’s removal followed revelations that the Montana Republican Party had bankrolled the $100,000 signature-gathering effort that put the Greens on the ballot and violated finance laws by not reporting the spending.

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said in a Thursday statement that the party’s removal was intended to eliminate political competition for Democrats.

Stapleton said he was appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. His office did not provide a copy of the appeal and did not immediately respond to an Associated Press query seeking the document.

The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday in a 5-2 ruling upheld an Aug. 7 ruling from district Judge James Reynolds that granted the requests of more than 560 people to remove their names from the signature petitions after they learned the Montana Green Party did not support the effort.

The Montana Democratic Party and four people who signed Green Party petitions had sued after Secretary of State Corey Stapleton refused requests to remove signatures from the petitions.

Stapleton said the removal requests were not filed or notarized before March 6, when he certified that Green Party candidates could file for office.

Reynolds said there is nothing in state law that created that deadline or a requirement for notarized signatures.

Green Party candidates are believed to draw votes away from Democratic candidates.

Montana has tight races for both a U.S. Senate and U.S. House seat.

Reynolds’ ruling left the Green Party without enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Reynolds’ decision marks the second time in two years that he removed Green Party candidates from the ballot. In 2018, in another complaint filed by the Montana Democratic Party, he invalidated signatures that didn’t match those on file with counties and invalidated others that were submitted by people who did not collect the signatures.

It was never determined who was behind the 2018 effort to get Green Party candidates on the Montana ballot. But the Green Party of Montana said it was not behind the efforts in 2018 or 2020.

The 2019 Legislature passed a law requiring timely reporting of spending on minor party ballot-qualification efforts.