Laws governing the initiative process in Montana (archive)
| Initiative law|
Ballot access rulings
Recent court cases
Ballot title challenges
| Laws governing|
local ballot measures
- Directly enact a new state law.
- Indirectly propose a new state law.
- Through veto referendum, nullify a law enacted by the Montana State Legislature.
The first step in qualifying an initiative for the ballot in Montana is for its proponents to submit the full text of the initiative to the Montana Secretary of State for review. Within 14 days after receiving the measure, the Secretary of State's staff must make recommendations for changes in the text or, alternatively, provide a statement indicating that no changes are recommended. (See ballot title.) Proponents must consider the recommendations and respond in writing to the Secretary of State, either accepting, rejecting or modifying each recommended change.
A sample petition, including the complete text of the measure, must then be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office in the form in which it will be circulated. The ballot measure proponents must also submit a proposed impartial ballot statement to accompany the issue. The sample petition may not be submitted to the Secretary of State more than one year prior to the final date for filing the signed petition with the county election administrator. The Secretary of State refers a copy of the petition to the Montana Attorney General for approval. The Secretary of State and Attorney General must each review the petition for sufficiency as to form, approve or reject the form of the petition and state the reasons for rejection, if any.
The Attorney General must forward his or her comments to the Secretary of State within 21 days after receipt of the petition. The Secretary of State will send written notice of the initial approval or rejection of the form to the person who submitted the petition within 28 days after submission. If the petition form is approved, a printed sample copy of the petition to be circulated, containing the title and implication of the vote statements as prepared by the Attorney General, must be filed with the Secretary of State. The determination of legal sufficiency shall be forwarded to the Secretary of State within 30 days of the initial form approval. The Secretary of State will notify the sponsor of such a decision.
The Attorney General will also order a fiscal impact statement if the proposed ballot issue has an effect on the revenues, expenditures or the fiscal liability of the state. The budget director, in cooperation with the agency or agencies affected by the petition, is responsible for preparing the fiscal note. If a fiscal note is prepared for the proposed ballot issue, the Attorney General will prepare a fiscal statement that is to be used on the petition and ballot if the measure is placed on the ballot. The Attorney General also will write a statement, not to exceed 100 words, explaining the purpose of the measure, and statements, not to exceed 25 words each, explaining the implications for and against the measure. If one wishes to challenge an Attorney General's decision on whether or not a ballot is legally sufficient the case will go directly to the Montana Supreme Court.
Number of signatures required
The number of signatures required to qualify a measure for the ballot is tied to how many votes were cast in the last gubernatorial election. To place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, proponents must collect 10% of votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial general election. For a new state statute or veto referendum, 5% of votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election are required.
- See also: Distribution requirement
Montana has a distribution requirement. For ballot measures proposing amendments to the Montana Constitution, the requirement is that signatures equalling 10% of those who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election must be collected in each of at least 40 of the state's legislative districts. Ballot measures proposing changes to Montana's state statutes must collect signatures equalling 5% of those who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election in each of at least 35 legislative districts.
Circulation and submission deadline
The circulation period can be no more than one year. All signatures must be filed with the Secretary of State before 5 p.m. of the third Friday of the fourth month prior to the election at which they are to be voted upon by the people. For 2010, that deadline will be June 18, 2010.
Method of signature verification
County officials check the names of all signers to verify they are registered voters. In addition, they randomly select signatures on each sheet and compare them with the signatures of the electors as they appear in the registration records of the office. If any of the randomly selected signatures do not appear to be genuine, all signatures on that sheet must be compared with the signatures in the registration records of the office.
Restrictions on petition circulators
As of 2007, Montana also has a residency requirement for circulators. Petition circulators are required to be Montana residents. Residency is defined as: "the union of act and intent" to reside and continue to reside in Montana.
Also while Election Administrators, Clerks and Recorders previously were allowed to gather signatures on an issue, they now only will be keeping ballots for review. Here is the law that was recently passed and will be enacted in 2007:
13-27-102. Who may petition and gather signatures
- A petition for the initiative, the referendum, or to call a constitutional convention may be signed only by a qualified elector of the state of Montana.
- A person gathering signatures for the initiative, the referendum, or to call a constitutional convention:
Montana does have a single-subject rule for initiatives.
- Main article: Legislative tampering
The Montana State Legislature can both repeal and amend initiated state statutes (but not initiated constitutional amendments, except through the normal procedures for amending the Montana Constitution.)
Once an initiative has qualified to appear on the ballot, committees are formed to write arguments for and against the issue. These arguments appear in the Voter Information Pamphlet (2006 example) that is distributed before each election to all households with a Montana voter. A three-member committee supporting the issue is appointed by the sponsor who submitted the petition. A five-member committee opposing the issue is appointed by the governor, Attorney General, president of the senate and speaker of the house of representatives. The four appointed persons appoint the fifth member.
Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the Montana State Legislature include:
There were no proposals during the 2009-2010 session of the Montana Legislature.
- Montana treats groups that are registered to support or oppose a ballot question the same like other political committees.
- Montana has a separate designation for independent expenditure groups influencing a ballot question called a incidental political committee.
- Montana requires urgent reporting of all campaign contributions of $500 or more in the last ten days of the election, within 24 hours of receiving the contribution.
- Montana allows corporations and labor unions to donate to political committees in support or opposition of a ballot question.
- Montana requires urgent reporting of all campaign debts of $500 or more used towards election materials within 24 hours of receipt of the transaction.
- List of Montana ballot measures
- Procedures for qualifying an initiative in Montana
- Campaign finance requirements for Montana ballot measures
- Montana signature requirements
- Montana's Guide to Initiatives
- Montana Initiative Updates
- Montana's Constitution
- I&R Institute (with permission)
- Montana Bill Information