Montanans for Election Reform submit signatures for a pair of initiatives establishing a top-four primary system and majority vote requirement

Montanans for Election Reform submitted signatures on June 13 for a pair of initiatives that would amend the Montana Constitution to change the state’s electoral system.

Initiative CI-126 would create a top-four primary system for elections for governor, lieutenant governor, state executives, state legislators, and congressional offices. Under the system, every candidate would run in the same primary. Candidates could list a political party but would not be required to. Voters would be allowed to choose one candidate per office. The top four vote-getters would advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliations.

Initiative CI-127 would require that a candidate for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, state legislature, and congressional offices win the election with a majority of the vote (rather than a plurality), as provided by law. Examples of majority-vote systems include runoff elections and ranked-choice voting.

Former Republican State Rep. Frank Garner is one of the initiatives’ primary sponsors. Garner said, “We know Montanans are fed up with divisive politics, inflammatory rhetoric and an unwillingness to work across the aisle to find solutions to the real challenges facing Montana’s families. It’s time for a change.”

The committee reported collecting more than 200,000 signatures for both initiatives. Each initiative requires 60,359 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The campaign has raised $4.2 million from groups including Article IV, which describes its mission as “improving the health of American democracy by instituting reforms that align citizens’ interests with politicians’ incentives,” and Unite America, which supports “nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government.”

Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobson (R) opposes the initiatives. She said, “I have serious concerns with the efforts funded with dark money to impose Ranked Choice Voting. It is a very deceptive practice and would undermine all of our efforts to secure our elections in Montana. It would also create serious voter confusion and frustration.”

The final deadline for county clerks to submit signatures to the secretary of state is July 19, 2024.

Similar ballot measures will be decided in other states this year.

Voters in Nevada will decide on a ballot measure to create top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections. Voters in Alaska will decide on an initiative to repeal the top-four RCV, which was adopted in 2020. An initiative to create a top-two primary system is on the ballot in South Dakota. Last month, signatures for a top-four primary initiative were submitted in Idaho.

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