HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court said in an opinion released Wednesday that it rejected a Republican-backed bid to get Montana Green Party candidates on the November ballot because a petition to qualify them was not supported by the Green Party itself.
The high court upheld District Judge James Reynolds’ Aug. 7 ruling that granted the requests of more than 560 people to remove their names from the petition after they learned the Montana Green Party did not support the effort.
The Supreme Court issued an expedited 5-2 ruling on Aug. 19 ahead of Montana’s general election ballot certification, and promised to release a full opinion and analysis at a later date.
The justices in the majority stated that the party seeking to qualify for the ballot must present the petition. Because the petition was neither presented nor supported by the Montana Green Party, the secretary of state should not have accepted it, according to the justices.
“Quite simply an unauthorized political party or entity cannot present a petition to require a different political party to put the different political party’s candidates on the ballot,” Justice Ingrid Gustafson wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
Signature gathering for the petition began early this year. It was later revealed that the Montana Republican Party had bankrolled the $100,000 signature-gathering effort and violated campaign finance laws by not properly reporting the expenditure.
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.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a motion filed by Montana Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to halt the order by the state high court.
Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Sandi Luckey called the opinion “a major victory” for the integrity of the state’s elections.
“The Montana Supreme Court affirmed today that Republicans can no longer impersonate minor parties in their efforts to tamper with our elections,” Luckey said in a statement.
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