Montana Supreme Court, federal court rule against GOP-backed effort to qualify Green Party candidates

Montana Supreme Court, federal court rule against GOP-backed effort to qualify Green Party candidates

Green Party candidates will not appear on the November ballot in Montana, the state’s Supreme Court and a federal court ruled Wednesday.

The state court upheld a decision District Judge James Reynolds made earlier this month that granted the requests of about 560 people to remove their names from the Green Party petitions after they learned the Montana Republican Party funded the effort, according to the Independent Record.

They claim that Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton did not follow the law in denying their requests to withdraw their signatures from the qualifying petitions.

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On Tuesday, Green Party attorney general candidate Roy Davis, Green Party state Senate hopeful Gary Marbut and two Green Party voters who participated in the state primary in May filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that removing their candidates disenfranchised them. 

The Green Party argues that even though hundreds of people wished to take back their signatures, 800 others voted lawfully in the Green Party primary.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen said in a ruling that "an injunction would nonetheless be inappropriate, given the parallel proceeding before the Montana Supreme Court."

The state Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in favor of stripping the candidates from the ballot, saying it would release its reasoning soon.

The Green Party’s attorney told the Record they plan to appeal the ruling, though the Montana ballot must be certified by Thursday.

The decision is a win for Democratic Gov. Steve BullockSteve Bullock65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal Arkansas, New Jersey governors to head National Governors Association Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE, who is challenging Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate GOP seeks bipartisan panel to investigate Afghanistan withdrawal Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Daines to introduce bill awarding Congressional Gold Medal to troops killed in Afghanistan MORE (R) in one of the year's most closely watched Senate races.

“Montanans have known for months now that the Montana GOP engaged in a massive fraudulent effort to mislead Montana voters and tamper with our elections,” state Democratic Party executive director Sandi Luckey said in a statement to the Record. “Today’s decision, at long last, secures justice for hundreds of Montanans who were lied to, and puts an end to this shameful attack on the integrity of Montana’s elections.”

Spenser Merwin, her GOP counterpart, said that "while claiming to support the integrity of our elections, the Montana Democratic Party spent tens of thousands of dollars to suppress Green Party voices and limit Montanans' choices this November, all so Gov. Bullock won't have to face a Green Party candidate that will expose his administration's corruption."