(Helena, Mt) On Monday the Montana Green Party (MGP), and 8 of its supporters, filed suit in Federal District Court. The case, which names the Montana Secretary of State, Corey Stapleton, as the defendant, asks the court to grant an immediate and permanent injunction on the enforcement of MCA, § 13-10-601(2)(a), (b), (c), and (d), as these statutes impose an unconstitutional burden on the MGP and its supporters by violating the first and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution.
The initial complaint declares that “the Plaintiffs will be denied their rights to actively engage in the exercise of their free speech, right to political association, right to form a political party, seek redress of grievances, cast an effective vote, and equal protection and due process of the laws of the State of Montana and the United States of America.”
The law in question has the most restrictive distribution requirements in the nation. It requires a third-party to submit, by March 15, at least 5,000 valid signatures, including 55 to 150 from at least 34 of the state’s House legislative districts.
The suit comes in response to the recent decision in a case that was filed by the Montana Democratic Party (MDP) in April. In the ruling issued by district court Judge Mike Reynolds, the MGP was ordered removed from the general election ballot this fall due to technical irregularities surrounding a handful of the more than 7,300 signatures verified by local election officials. In the suit Democrats argued on technical grounds that some of those who signed printed their names instead of using cursive, used abbreviations and initials, wrote illegibly, used only a first or last name, or spelled their names differently.
MGP Coordinator Danielle Breck stated: “we believe it is our responsibility to stand up for constitutionally protected rights of the voters of Montana to affiliate with the political party of their choosing and to vote for candidates who represent their ideals. We cannot and will not sit idly by and allow the Democratic Party to silence the voices of the thousands of Montanans who believe in our Green movement. Let the MDP and its high-powered out of state attorneys continue to squabble with the SOS over whether or not MGP supporters met the letter of this unconstitutional law. We are moving this discussion to federal court where it belongs.”
“This lawsuit is a continuation of the Green Party’s grassroots battle to protect all rights and powers reserved for the people by U.S. Constitution,” said Steve Kelly, Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate. “Greens are fighting against the corrosive power of big money and the two-party corruption destroying the integrity of America’s election process.”
US House candidate Doug Campbell stated “Just as Montana’s laws for special elections were found to be unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris in last year’s challenge, Breck v Stapleton, 9:17cv-36, so I contend that Montana’s laws for new and small political parties and Independent candidates are likewise unconstitutionally restrictive. I look forward to this case being heard and considered thoroughly and fairly, and I expect that all Montanans will benefit from more free and fair ballot access laws when the court hands down its decision. If the democratic processes in our Constitutional Republic are to work efficiently, the mechanisms must allow for full input by We The People.”
This is an issue that is important not just to MGP supporters, but to all Montanans. A point which was articulated by Montana Libertarian candidate for US House Elinor Swanson when she stated Monday that “Montana’s ballot access rules unlawfully restrict Montanans’ political activism. They significantly limit the ability of independent voters, small parties, and political candidates to politically participate. Montana’s rules relating to ballot access and political campaigns are so draconian and restrictive that they essentially amount to taxpayer-funded campaign contributions to political candidates and donations to political parties. These barriers to political participation are unconstitutional. ALL Montanans should have full, fair, and equal opportunity to engage in the political process.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2018
Montana Green Party