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Court blocks top-two primary referendum from appearing on 2014 ballot

Court blocks top-two primary referendum from appearing on 2014 ballot


The Montana Supreme Court ruled in our favor today and struck LR-127 from the 2014 ballot because the title was unlawfully long. There will be no “jungle primary” in Montana. Thanks to our clients, MEA-MFT, Montana AFL-CIO, Montana Public Employees Association, Montana Human Rights Network and AFSCME for challenging this referendum.  More info…


The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the state from placing a legislative referendum on the November ballot that, if passed, would greatly change how the state’s primary elections work.

By a 6-1 majority, with Justice Laurie McKinnon dissenting, the court found that the title of Legislative Referendum 127 “does not comply with the plain meaning of the Legislature’s 100-word limit” found in state law. Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote the decision.

The referendum sought to change Montana’s primary elections by having all candidates for a particular office – Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and other minor party candidate – appear on the same ballot in the primary.

The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, for each office would advance to the general election, under the referendum.

The way Montana’s primary elections work now is that each major political party has its own primary election ballot. The Democrat and Republican candidate who get the most votes for each office in each party primary move on to the general election, often joined by Libertarian candidates or in the past Green Party or Natural Law Party candidates.

Republicans had pushed for the referendum in the Legislature because of their concerns that having Libertarians on the general election ballot wound up splitting votes away from Republicans and helping Democrats.