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

July 21, 2014
CONTACT: Terri McCoy, (406) 444-2807

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch Tabulates 2014 Ballot Issue Signatures;
No Citizen Initiatives Qualify To Appear on General Election Ballot

HELENA, MT – Secretary of Secretary of State and Chief Elections Officer Linda McCulloch has completed tabulating petition signatures for the 2014 ballot issues, and says no citizen-proposed issue has qualified to appear on the November General Election ballot.  Two legislative referenda will appear on the ballot, as referred by the 2013 Montana Legislature.

“We haven’t had a general election without a citizen initiative on the ballot since 1972,” Secretary McCulloch said.  “That’s the same year voters approved the current Montana Constitution.”

Citizen-proposed ballot issues must meet the signature gathering requirements provided in state law before qualifying to appear on the general election ballot.  The requirements for a citizen initiative or referendum are 5% of the total number of qualified voters in Montana, including 5% of the voters in each of 34 legislative house districts.  Those requirements increase to 10% of the qualified voters, including 10% in each of 40 legislative house districts for constitutional amendments by initiative.

“Absentee voting has probably changed things,” Secretary McCulloch said.  “Signature gatherers usually set up shop outside polling places for school and primary elections, and now there just aren’t as many people around to sign the petitions.”

Per Montana law, county election offices had until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 18 to submit certified signatures for constitutional and statutory initiatives to the Secretary of State’s Office for tabulation. 

Counties certify petitions by checking the names and signatures to verify the signer is registered in that county, and that their signature matches the voter registration record. The Secretary of State’s Office verifies that each certified petition meets statutory requirements before tallying the signatures by house district to determine qualification for the ballot.  Twelve citizen initiatives were approved for signature gathering among the eighteen submitted proposals.

Legislative referenda are referred to the ballot by the Montana Legislature, and therefore do not have to meet signature gathering requirements.  

“Just because the Legislature put it on the ballot, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” Secretary McCulloch said. “One of the issues proposes to eliminate Election Day voter registration in Montana, which we know would be a giant step backward in protecting voters’ rights. It’s important to read the ballot language carefully and review the Voter Information Pamphlet before casting your vote.”

The Voter Information Pamphlet (VIP) contains detailed information on qualified ballot issues. County election offices will mail the booklet in October to every household with at least one registered voter. The VIP will also be available online and by request in alternative accessible formats including Braille, audio and large print.