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Ballot access requirements for political candidates in Montana

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This page contains extensive information about ballot access requirements for state and federal candidates running for elected office in the state of Montana. Offices include the following:

This page contains information on specific filing dates for each election year, how to become a candidate, how to create a political party, campaign finance requirements, state agency contacts involved in the election process, and term limits in Montana. Information on running for election as a presidential candidate or for county and municipal offices is not included.

Note: If you have any questions or comments about this page, email us.

Year-specific dates

2015

See also: Montana elections, 2015

There are no regularly scheduled state executive, state legislative or congressional elections in Montana in 2015.

2014


Political parties

See also: List of political parties in the United States

As of February 2015, there were three recognized political parties in Montana. These are listed in the table below. To be officially recognized by the state, a party must fulfill certain requirements (detailed below, under "Process to establish a political party").[3]

Party Website link By-laws/platform link
Libertarian http://www.mtlp.org/home.htm National party by-laws
Democratic http://www.montanademocrats.org/ Party platform
Republican http://www.mtgop.org/ Party by-laws

In some states, a candidate may choose to have a label other than that of an officially recognized party appear alongside his or her name on the ballot. Such labels are called political party designations. A political party designation would be used when a candidate qualifies as an independent, but prefers to use a different label. Montana does allow candidates to identify in this way. A total of 25 states allow candidates to use political party designations in non-presidential elections.[4][5]

The 11 states listed below (and Washington, D.C.) do not provide a process for political organizations to gain qualified status in advance of an election. Instead, in these states, an aspirant party must first field candidates using party designations. If the candidate or candidates win the requisite votes, the organization may then be recognized as an official political party. In these states, a political party can be formed only if the candidate in the general election obtains a specific number of votes. The number of votes required and type of race vary from state to state. Details can be found on the state-specific requirements pages.[6]

Process to establish a political party

Figure 1: This is a Political Party Qualification Petition for the state of Montana.

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 13 of the Montana Code

In order to qualify to hold a primary election, aspirant political parties must petition the Montana Secretary of State for recognition.[7]

Petitions must meet the following requirements:

Signature requirements

  • A party qualifying petition must be signed by a number of registered voters equal to at least 5 percent of the total votes cast for the successful candidate for governor in the most general election, or 5,000 electors, whichever is less. In 2012, for example, 236,450 votes were cast for successful gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock. Because 5 percent of that total is 11,823, aspirant parties will be required until the election season following the gubernatorial race of 2016 to gather 5,000 valid signatures for qualifying petitions.
  • This number must include registered voters in more than one-third of the legislative districts equal to at least 5 percent of the total votes cast for the successful candidate for governor at the last general election in those districts, or 150 electors in those districts, whichever is less. In 2014, for example, 119 signatures were required from each of the 34 districts from the Montana House of Representatives.[7][8]

Deadlines

  • One week before the petition is due to the secretary of state, the petition and affidavits of circulation must be presented to the election administrator of the county in which the signatures were gathered to be verified.
  • The election administrator must forward the verified petition to the secretary of state at least 85 days before the date of the primary.[7]

The form of the petition is prescribed by the secretary of state. Petition forms and affidavits of circulation can be obtained via the secretary of state's website.[9]

All qualified political parties must submit to the secretary of state a copy of the current rules of party government. Further, county-level party committees must submit a copy of the current rules of party government to the county election administrator.[10][11]

Maintaining party status

Political parties that fielded a candidate for statewide office in either of the last two general elections who received a total vote of at least 5 percent of the total votes cast for the most recent successful candidate for governor maintain state-qualified status and may continue to nominate candidates by primary elections. To maintain qualified party status in 2014, for example, a party would have had to run a candidate for statewide office in either 2012 or 2010 who received at least 11,823 votes (5 percent of the vote cast for the successful gubernatorial candidate in 2012).[7][8]

For further information regarding petition requirements, see "Petition requirements" below.

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 601 of the Montana Code Annotated

Process to become a candidate

For qualified party candidates

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 201 of the Montana Code Annotated 2013

In order to qualify for placement on the primary ballot, a candidate for the nomination of a recognized political party must file a Declaration of Nomination and pay the requisite filing fees. The Declaration of Nomination must include an Oath of Candidacy, which the candidate is required to sign to affirm that, under the state constitution and applicable federal and state laws, he or she is qualified to hold the office sought. This paperwork must be filed with the Montana Secretary of State if the office sought is a congressional seat, a state or district office voted for in more than one county, or a state legislative seat.[12][13]

Filing fees are established in Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 202 of the Montana Code Annotated 2013. Fee schedules and the method of calculation are summarized in the table below.[14]

Type of office How the fee is determined Office(s) and fee(s) for 2014
For offices earning an annual salary of $2,500 or less and members of the state legislature $15 State Senator - $15
State Representative - $15
For offices (except county-level) earning an annual salary of more than $2,500 1% of salary U.S. Senator - $1,740
U.S. Representative - $1,740
Public Service Commissioner - $979.80
For offices in which compensation is paid in fees $10 N/A

For independent, indigent and non-qualified party candidates

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 501 of the Montana Code Annotated 2013

In order to qualify for placement on the general election ballot, the candidate must file an Independent, Minor Party or Indigent Candidate Declaration, Oath of Candidacy and Petition for Nomination. Independent and non-qualified party candidates are liable for the same filing fees as qualified party candidates (see table above). Indigent candidates (i.e., those who do not have the resources to pay the filing fees) are not required to pay the statutory filing fees and may have their names placed on the ballot via the petition process only.[15][16]

Nominating petitions must be signed by electors residing within the state and district or political subdivision in which the officer is to be elected. Valid signatures must total at least 5 percent of the total vote cast at the last general election for the successful candidate for the office sought.[17]

Examples of signature requirements for 2014 offices are listed below.[15]

Office Certified signatures required in 2014
U.S. Senator 17,415
U.S. Representative 12,774
Public Services Commissioner #1 2,009
Public Services Commissioner #5 2,123
State Senator 257
State Representative 129

For write-in candidates

In order to have his or her votes counted, a write-in candidate must submit to the Montana Secretary of State a Declaration of Intent and Oath of Candidacy and pay the requisite filing fees (noted above).[18]


Petition requirements

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 13 of the Montana Code

In some cases, political parties and/or candidates may need to obtain signatures via the petition process to gain access to the ballot. This section outlines the laws and regulations pertaining to petitions and circulators in Montana.

Format requirements

The form of petitions for both candidates and political parties is prescribed by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is required by statute to furnish sample copies to election administrators and to any individual on request.[19][20]

Signature requirements

Each sheet of a petition must contain signatures of electors residing in only one county.[21][20]

Circulation requirements

Affidavits of circulation must be attached to each petition sheet or section submitted to a county election administrator. These affidavits must include substantially the following text: "I, (name of person who is the signature gatherer), swear that I gathered the signatures on the petition to which this affidavit is attached on the stated dates, that I believe the signatures on the petition are genuine, are the signatures of the persons whose names they purport to be, and are the signatures of Montana electors who are registered at the address or have the telephone number following the person's signature, and that the signers knew the contents of the petition before signing the petition." Affidavits of circulation must also note the date on which the first signature was collected and address of the circulator. The affidavits must also be notarized.[22]

The statutes do not specify circulator requirements (e.g., residency status).

Montana permits candidates and aspirant political parties to begin circulating petitions as early as they wish, and candidates and parties may submit these petitions to county election administrators at any time. Candidate declaration forms, however, cannot be filed with the appropriate filing officer prior to a specified deadline (January 9 in 2014).[23][24]

Campaign finance

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 13, Chapter 37, Part 2 of the Montana Code Annotated 2013

Each candidate for office must designate a campaign treasurer, who is responsible for depositing and disbursing funds, keeping accurate account records, and administering the various financial affairs of the campaign. A candidate may serve as his or her own treasurer or deputy treasurer. The treasurer must be registered to vote in Montana.[25]

The candidate must submit to the Commissioner of Political Practices and the election administrator of his or her county of residence a Statement of Candidate C-1 form within five days of becoming a candidate. This statement must include the full name and complete address of the campaign treasurer and any deputy treasurers. The statement must also include the name and address of the financial depository in which the campaign's account is located.[26][25]

With the exception of candidates for county, municipal or school district offices spending less than $500 in all elections in a campaign, all candidates must adhere to the campaign finance reporting requirements established in Title 13, Chapter 37 of the Montana Code Annotated. Candidates submit regular finance reports via forms prescribed by the Commissioner of Political Practices (Form C-5, Candidate Campaign Finance Reports), which require disclosure of the following types of information:[25]

  • Cash summary; money received and spent: details cash transactions only for the reporting period
  • Receipts
    • candidate's personal contributions
    • contributions amounting to less than $35 each
    • loans
    • interest, rebates, refunds, fundraisers, and other receipts
    • political action committee contributions
    • political party committee contributions
    • incidental committee contributions
    • other political committee contributions
    • individual contributors of $35 or more
  • Expenditures
    • petty cash
    • all other expenditures
  • Debts and loans that have not been repaid

Report due dates vary depending on the office sought.[27][28][29]

Certain contributions made near the date of the election require special disclosure. Any statewide candidate must report contributions of $200 or more from a single source between the 10th day before an election and the date of an election within 24 hours of receipt. Any legislative or Public Service Commission candidate must report contributions of $100 or more from a single source between the 17th day before an election and the date of an election within 48 hours of receipt. Such contributions should be reported via a Form C-7, provided by the Commissioner of Political Practices.[25]

Contribution limits

Individual campaign contribution limits vary according to the recipient. The table below summarizes campaign contribution limits effective December 13, 2013.[30]

Montana individual campaign contribution limits[30]
Recipient Contribution limit
Political party committee No limit
Political action committee No limit
Ballot issue committee No limit
Candidate for governor/lieutenant governor $650 per election
Candidate for other statewide office* $320 per election
Candidate for other public office** $170 per election
*Includes Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Supreme Court Justice and Clerk of the Supreme Court.
**Includes candidates for the state legislature and the Public Services Commission.


Election-related agencies

See also: State election agencies

Candidates running for office may require some form of interaction with the following agencies:

  • Montana Secretary of State
Why: This agency provides and processes candidate filing paperwork for statewide offices.
Physical address: State Capitol, Room 260, 1301 6th Avenue, Helena, MT 59620
Mailing address: P.O. Box 202801, Helena, MT 59620-2801
Telephone: 406.444.4732
Fax: 406.444.2023
Email: soselections@mt.gov
http://sos.mt.gov/
  • Montana Commissioner on Political Practices
Why: This agency provides and processes campaign finance filings.
Physical address: 1205 8th Ave, Helena, MT 59601
Mailing address: P.O. Box 202401, Helena, MT 59620-2401
Telephone: 406-444-2942
Fax: 406-444-1643
Email: jmotl@mt.gov
http://politicalpractices.mt.gov/

Counties

See also: Counties in Montana

A candidate must file a number of documents with the county elections office in his or her home county. Individual county contact information can be found below. In the table below, if a website is not provided it is because one does not exist for this municipality. To provide a link or information for the table below, please email us.

Term limits

State executives

Portal:State Executive Officials
See also: State executives with term limits and States with gubernatorial term limits

State executive term limits are established in Article 4, Section 8 of the Montana Constitution. The state executive term limits in Montana are as follows:[31]

There were no state executive offices affected by term limits in 2014.

State legislators

See also: State legislatures with term limits

Montana state legislators may serve no more than eight years in a 16-year period.[31]

Term limits were imposed on state legislators by a constitutional amendment approved by the state's electorate in 1992.

2014

See also: Impact of term limits on state senate elections in 2014 and Impact of term limits on state representative elections in 2014

There were 14 state legislators who were termed out in 2014.

Name Party House District
Verdell Jackson Ends.png Republican Senate District 5
Mitch Tropila Electiondot.png Democratic Senate District 12
Jim Peterson Ends.png Republican Senate District 15
Larry Jent Electiondot.png Democratic Senate District 32
Terry Murphy Ends.png Republican Senate District 39
Christine Kaufmann Electiondot.png Democratic Senate District 41
David Wanzenried Electiondot.png Democratic Senate District 49
Mark Blasdel Ends.png Republican House District 10
Pat Ingraham Ends.png Republican House District 13
Bill McChesney Electiondot.png Democratic House District 40
Duane Ankney Ends.png Republican House District 43
Krayton Kerns Ends.png Republican House District 58
Franke Wilmer Electiondot.png Democratic House District 63
Galen Hollenbaugh Electiondot.png Democratic House District 81

2012

See also: Impact of term limits on state senate elections in 2012 and Impact of term limits on state representative elections in 2012

A total of 24 state legislators were termed out in 2012.

2010

See also: Impact of term limits on state senate elections in 2010 and Impact of term limits on state representative elections in 2010

A total of 30 state legislators were termed out in 2010.

Congressional partisanship

Portal:Congress
See also: List of United States Representatives from Montana and List of United States Senators from Montana

Here is the current partisan breakdown of the congressional members from Montana:

Congressional Partisan Breakdown from Montana
Party U.S. Senate U.S. House Total
     Democratic Party 1 0 1
     Republican Party 1 1 2
TOTALS as of April 2015 2 1 3

State legislative partisanship

Portal:State legislatures

Here is the current partisan breakdown of members of the state legislature of Montana:

Senate

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 21
     Republican Party 29
Total 50

House

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 41
     Republican Party 59
Total 100


Recent news

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See also

External links

Official state and federal links

Forms

Other information

References

  1. Office of the Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Political Party Qualification," updated December 27, 2013
  2. Office of the Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Independent, Minor Party and Indigent Candidates," updated September 18, 2013
  3. Montana Secretary of State, "Montana Political Parties," accessed February 9, 2015
  4. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 12, Section 203," accessed January 7, 2014
  5. Correspondence with the Montana Office of the Secretary of State on January 7, 2014
  6. E-mail consultation with ballot access expert Richard Winger in January 2014.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 601," accessed January 7, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 Montana Secretary of State, "2012 Statewide General Election Canvass," accessed January 7, 2014
  9. Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Political Party Qualification," accessed January 7, 2014
  10. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 38, Section 104," accessed January 7, 2014
  11. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 38, Section 105," accessed January 7, 2013
  12. Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Major Party Candidates," accessed January 7, 2014
  13. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 201," accessed January 7, 2014
  14. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 202," accessed January 7, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Independent, Minor Party and Indigent Candidates," accessed January 7, 2014
  16. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 501," accessed January 7, 2014
  17. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 502," accessed January 7, 2014
  18. Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Write-in Candidates," accessed January 7, 2014
  19. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 501," accessed January 7, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 601," accessed January 7, 2014
  21. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 10, Section 502," accessed January 7, 2014
  22. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 27, Section 302," accessed January 7, 2014
  23. Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Independent, Minor Party and Indigent Candidates," accessed January 7, 2014
  24. Montana Secretary of State, "Information for Political Party Qualification," accessed January 7, 2014
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Commissioner of Political Practices, "Accounting and Reporting Manual for Candidates and Campaign Treasurers," updated December 2013
  26. Montana Code Annotated 2013, "Title 13, Chapter 37, Section 201," accessed January 8, 2014
  27. Commissioner of Political Practices, "Statewide Candidates - Candidate Finance Report Calendar, 2013-2014, Primary and General Elections," accessed January 8, 2014
  28. Commissioner of Political Practices, "Legislative Candidates - Candidate Finance Report Calendar, 2014, Primary and General Elections," accessed January 8, 2014
  29. Commissioner of Political Practices, "Public Service Commissioner - Candidate Finance Report Calendar, 2014, Primary and General Elections," accessed January 8, 2014
  30. 30.0 30.1 Commissioner of Political Practices, "Political Campaign Contribution Limits Summary," accessed January 8, 2014
  31. 31.0 31.1 Montana Constitution, "Article IV, Section 8," accessed November 14, 2013