Elections and Government Services Administrative Rules of Montana Business Services Notary and Certification Records and Information Management

It is the responsibility of ballot issue sponsors to ensure that all applicable laws are followed, including laws governing signature gathering activities and any deadline requirements.   In addition to the information here, each ballot issue sponsor should review Title 13, Chapter 27, MCA, in its entirety.

The Legislature may pass bills in order to

  1. Refer a proposed law to the voters through a legislative referendum, or
  2. Send a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters.

 

Anyone planning to propose a ballot issue should contact the Commissioner of Political Practices to get information on the financial reporting requirements.

 

Any individual or group may petition to

  1. Enact a law by initiative,
  2. Approve or reject an act of the legislature by referendum, or
  3. Amend the state constitution.

A member of the public proposing a ballot issue must follow certain steps:

Drafting a Ballot Issue

1. First a draft of the proposed ballot issue must be submitted to the Secretary of State's Office for review. This draft includes the text of the ballot issue, as well as draft ballot statements (the statement of purpose and implication and "Yes" and "No" statements to appear on the ballot). The standard form such text and statements take is included in Title 13, Chapter 27 of the Montana Code Annotated (13-27-204 through 13-27-207).

2. The Secretary of State forwards the text and statements to the Legislative Services Division. This agency reviews the proposal for clarity and consistency, and for conformity with its bill drafting manual and for other legal requirements, and, if necessary, makes recommendations for revisions within 14 days of submission of the text and statements.

3. The individual proposing the ballot issue then must respond in writing to Legislative Services, either accepting, rejecting, or modifying any revisions.

4. After step #3 is completed, the individual proposing the ballot issue sends the final text and ballot statements to the Secretary of State, who, after determining that the text and ballot statements do not contain material not submitted to the Legislative Services Division that is a substantive change not recommended by the Legislative Services Division, forwards a copy of the proposed ballot issue to the Attorney General's Office.

5. The Attorney General completes a legal review and may prepare statements that comply with applicable requirements. Within 30 days of receiving the draft, the Attorney General must forward the legal review of the ballot issue to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will notify the individual proposing the ballot issue of the AG's approval or rejection of the ballot issue. If the AG approves the ballot issue, the Secretary of State issues the petition form that is circulated for signature gathering.

The earliest date to circulate petitions for signatures for 2014 ballot issues (other than initiative referenda) is June 20, 2013.

  • There is no earliest date in law for initiative referenda petitions to be circulated for signatures, after the petition form is reviewed and approved as provided by law.

The earliest date to submit signed ballot issue petitions to county election administrators for 2014 ballot issues (other than for initiative referendum petitions referring an act of the 2013 Legislature) is October 18, 2013.

  • There is no earliest date in law for initiative referenda petitions to be submitted to county election administrators, after the petition form is reviewed and approved as provided by law.

Collecting Signatures

1. To qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot, signatures of 5 percent of the total number of qualified voters in the state (based on the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the last general election), including 5 percent of the voters in each of 34 legislative house districts must be obtained (a total of 24,175 signatures for the 2014 ballot).

  • To suspend an act passed by the  2013 legislature, signatures must be obtained from 15 percent of the total number of qualified electors (as defined in Article III, Section 7 of the Montana Constitution) in each of at least 51 legislative representative districts.

To qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot, signatures of 10 percent of the total number of qualified voters in the state (based on the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the last general election), including 10 percent of the voters in each of 40 legislative house districts must be obtained (a total of 48,349 signatures for the 2014 ballot).

2. A person gathering signatures for an initiative, referendum, or to call a constitutional convention must be a resident, as provided in 1-1-215, MCA , of the state of Montana, and may not be paid anything of value based on the number of signatures gathered. 

3. Only registered voters may sign ballot issue petitions, and they must sign their name substantially the same way as they did on their voter registration card.

4. No one may knowingly sign a petition for the same ballot measure more than once or sign another person's name to a petition. Anyone who does so may be fined or sentenced to jail time.

5. You may post petitions on the Internet for people to view and/or print off. The posting must include a statement that the petition format may not be modified.

6. Each sheet or section of up to 25 sheets of a petition must include an Affidavit of Signature Gatherer from the signature gatherer who was present at the time each elector signed the petition.

7. As signatures are gathered, each petition must be submitted to the election administrator in the county in which the signatures were gathered for verification of the signatures. The deadline for petition signatures (other than for initiative referenda) to be received by county election administrators is 5 p.m. on June 20, 2014.

  • The deadline for initiative referendum petitions to be submitted to county election administrators is 5 p.m. on September 26, 2013.

8. County election administrators must send all certified petitions (other than for initiative referenda) to the Secretary of State's Office so that they are received by 5 p.m. on July 18, 2014.

  • County election administrators must send all certified initiative referendum petition sheets to the Secretary of State's Office so that they are received by 5 p.m. on October 24, 2013.

9. The Secretary of State's Office tallies the signatures and determines if they are sufficient to qualify the issue for placement on the ballot.

NOTE regarding Article XIV, section 9 of the Montana Constitution:  Montana was permanently enjoined from enforcing the constitutional and statutory provisions requiring a county distribution for signatures by a 2005 federal district court decision that found that the requirement violated the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In a subsequent 2005 A.G. Opinion, the attorney general held that the judicial decision restores the language of the constitution and statutes as they existed before the approval of the invalid amendments.

Making a Case

1. The sponsor of the ballot issue will be asked to prepare an argument in support of the issue for use in the official state Voter Information Pamphlet, published by the Secretary of State. Certain elected officials will choose individuals to prepare an argument against the issue, and then each side will have the opportunity to provide a rebuttal.  Argument and rebuttal factual statements must be supported by documents filed with the Secretary of State within 2 business days of the date on which the arguments and rebuttals are required to be filed.

2. If the ballot issue passes, it becomes part of state law or the state constitution.

Past Ballot Issues

If you have questions about ballot issues, contact Elections and Government Services at (406) 444-5346, email soselections@mt.gov, or call the Secretary of State's toll-free voter hotline at 1-888-884-VOTE (8683).