— The Hill (@thehill) July 11, 2018
District Court Judge James Reynolds from Helena issued a ruling invalidating many of the signatures that had been submitted to the Montana Secretary of State by Green Party members. The reason for the judge’s ruling was that the signatures were invalid for one of the following reasons:
- The signatures did not match those on file,
- They did not match a registered voter or
- There were improper signature-gathering practices.
Because of the judge’s ruling disqualifying the signatures, the Green Party now does not meet Montana’s statewide requirements for getting on the ballot. Under Montana voting rules a party must submit a minimum of 5,000 valid signatures that have been obtained from at least 34 of Montana’s 100 statehouse districts.
Previously the Montana Democratic Party had sued to block the Green Party’s access to the November ballot, and had claimed that Republicans improperly manipulated the signature-gathering process to help the Green Party.
Several months ago Montana Democrats had also raised concerns after supposed Green Party members turned in to the Secretary of State over 7,000 signatures on the final day of qualifying.
These submitted signatures looked very suspect and it was later uncovered that several of the Green Party signature-gatherers had identified themselves in social media as not being part of the Green Party at all. In fact, they admitted in postings online that they were actually paid employees of Advanced Micro Targeting, a Republican political consulting firm based in Nevada that was hired to improperly obtain Green Party signatures in Montana.
The judge’s decision means the Green Party candidate, artist and gallery owner Steve Kelly, will not appear on November’s ballot against Senator Tester, the Democratic candidate, and state Auditor Matt Rosendale, the Republican candidate.
Because the loss of even a small number of Democratic votes going to a Green Party candidate could cause Tester to lose, the decision is seen as as big victory for the incumbent senator. Keeping the Green Party candidate off the ballot will really help Tester who is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats seeking reelection this year since Montana voted for Trump in 2016 and is considered a “red” state. If liberal voters had chosen Kelly over Tester this may have helped Rosendale unseat Tester, who is a popular rancher and well known to Montana voters.
In a statement, Green Party spokeswoman Danielle Breck said the Democratic Party had assisted in the negative decision which resulted in what she called a violation of voters’ rights:
“The Montana Democratic Party’s deep pocketed effort to suppress the vote in Montana has, for the moment, succeeded. The Montana Green Party, however, understands that it is not only our right, but also our duty, as citizens to do everything we can to stand up against such efforts.”
Nancy Keenan, chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, said the ruling was a win for Democrats against what she called “the tactics of out-of-state Republican dark money groups that are blatantly trying to interfere in Montana’s democracy.”