State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Montana

Nonpartisan Election Laws Challenged in Montana

Before the 2016 election season even concluded, the 2018 campaign season for one small Montana community had already started heating up. Robin Benson, the Clerk and Recorder of Lincoln County, a small county of less than twenty thousand people, announced on October 18, 2016, in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Montana, that she plans on running for reelection in 2018. In the suit, Ms. Benson challenges Montana’s nonpartisan election laws as a violation of candidates’ free speech rights.

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First Ever Complaint Alleging Violations Under Montana’s Disclose Act Dismissed

Between August 18 and 20, Liz Fordahl and Scott Skokos received two postcards in the mail from the Montana chapter of Americans for Prosperity. The first postcard bears photos of incumbent Governor Steve Bullock and a broken piggy bank and declares that Governor Bullock is “bankrupting Montana.” The card goes on to urge the recipient to call the Governor’s office. The second postcard bears the photo of state Senator Robyn Driscoll and states that the senator has a failing grade on her “Montana freedom scorecard” and encourages the postcard recipient to call the senator and tell her to stand up to big government. Mr. Skokos filed a complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) claiming the postcards were a violation of state election law.

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Robo-calls, in Montana and Elsewhere

By: Cameron Boster

           Background

Missoula, Montana, is a beautiful city. There are mountains in the distance, tall, deep-green trees everywhere, old buildings – and a rocky, white-swirling river moving through it. No reasonable person seeing Missoula for the first time would think to focus on the city’s current robo-call election law controversy.

This month, parents of students enrolled in Missoula’s schools received automated phone calls containing a message from Missoula’s mayor, John Engen. The content of the message is available on Youtube. In short, the message urges parents to vote on an upcoming bond, tells them where and how they can cast their ballot, and ends with this encouragement: “Thank you for everything you do to support your children, and to ensure a positive future for your family – and our wonderful community.”

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Distance as Discrimination: Native Voting Rights in Rural Montana Litigated in Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch

By: Cameron Boster

History of the Dispute

The seven Indian reservations that intersect with Montana’s massive counties face significant problems, including poverty, domestic violence, and obstacles to education. Native electoral representation, a tool essential for fixing these issues, is threatened by the thinly populated, hundred-mile distances between remote towns that stretch on bad roads through wild terrain.

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Montana to vote on Supreme Court justice elections

by Elderidge Nichols

On April 18, 2011, the Montana state legislature passed SB 268 which calls for a referendum vote to determine the future of elections for the Montana Supreme Court.  On June 5, 2012, on the 2012 Primary Election Ballot, voters in Montana will determine whether Montana will begin to elect Supreme Court justices by districts.

Although the Montana state senate passed SB 268 the Attorney General’s office and Secretary of State are statutorily obligated to approve of the language of the Statement of Purpose designed to explain the purpose of the referendum.  Andrew Huff, Assistant Attorney General of the state of Montana, passed along a copy of the accepted language. The Statement of Purpose reads:

The Montana Supreme Court is composed of seven justices, one of whom is Chief Justice. Under current law, the justices are elected statewide and each Montanan votes for all seven positions. LR-119 would change existing law so that each justice is elected from one of seven districts of approximately equal population, with the Chief Justice then chosen from the seven by majority vote of the justices. Only Montanans living in each district would vote for their district’s justice. Justices must reside in their district when initially elected. Continue reading

Montana Supreme Court leading the charge against Citizens United

by Patrick Genova

Last month the Supreme Court issued a stay on Montana’s Supreme Court decision upholding corporate spending limits in state elections. It seems that the Court may be ready to reexamine Citizens United. What they’ll find is what many states have been saying all along: Citizens United is out of sync with the values of many states.

Montana was the first of many states to express disdain for unlimited corporate funding. Early last week 55 towns in Vermont passed resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment that would limit the rights of corporations. The Alabama legislature has also been seeking to stop PAC-to-PAC fund transfers that mask donors. Even some members of the Court seem eager to reexamine the effects of Citizens United. In response to the Montana decision, Justice Ginsburg referred to Justice Kennedy’s language in Citizens United decision saying, “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’” Meanwhile some panelists at the Federal Election Commission’s hearing last week urged the FEC not to wait for the Supreme Court to reverse Citizens United and to take regulatory action into their own hands. Continue reading

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