February 7, 2013
CONTACT: Terri McCoy, (406) 444-2807
McCulloch Asks Legislature to Pay for Placing Referenda on Ballot
HELENA – Secretary of State and Chief Elections Officer Linda McCulloch says that if the Legislature chooses to add referenda to a federal election ballot, then it should be willing to foot the bill. McCulloch urged the House Local Government Committee to consider the high cost of placing proposed legislation on the ballot and the impact it has on already strained county budgets.
“I strongly support the right for individuals and groups to propose changes to Montana law through the initiative and referendum process,” Secretary McCulloch said. “All I’m asking is that if the Legislature chooses to use ballot issues as an extension of the legislative process, then they should consider the very real cost involved with choosing that option.”
For only the second time in the past three decades, the Montana Legislature referred five legislative referenda to the Federal Election ballot. Two of the proposals were later ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court. The remaining three legislative referenda appeared on the 2012 General Election ballot at a cost of more than $113,000 to counties for the layout and printing of the ballot and programming of the vote tabulating machines.
“The cost to counties would have increased exponentially had all five legislative referenda appeared on the ballot,” Secretary McCulloch said. “In fact, with one of the referenda slated to appear on the Primary ballot, counties could have faced additional costs of more than $326,000 as an additional Voter Information Pamphlet would have been mailed in accordance with Montana law.”
McCulloch said that if the Legislature agrees to pay for legislative referenda, it would be helping to ensure Election Administrators have the resources and funding they need to continue to run fair, accessible, and accurate elections.
“It’s a viable cost-savings solution,” Secretary McCulloch said. “The Legislature has every right to place an issue on the ballot, but when they do, that issue ends up costing taxpayers twice. They pay when the proposal is first introduced during the Legislative Session, and they pay to have it placed on the ballot. That extra cost should be covered by the state, and not Montana’s county governments.”
House Bill 349, which provides for the state reimbursing counties for the cost of placing legislative referenda on the ballot, is being sponsored by Representative Galen Hollenbaugh, of Helena.