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What are Montana Constitutional Initiatives 126 and 127?

Posted at 8:20 AM, Apr 05, 2024

CHOTEAU — Education measures continue across Montana surrounding Constitutional Initiatives 126 and 127. The initiatives, backed by Montanans for Election Reform, aim to open up Montana’s primary elections.

Approved by the Montana Supreme Court, advocates have begun collecting signatures in order to be added to the November ballot.

They each need 60,359 signatures to be added, but what exactly are these initiatives?

CI-126 gives voters the option to cast their vote regardless of party affiliation in Montana’s primaries. All candidates across all parties would be listed on one ballot. The top four candidates in each office would advance to the general election.

CI-127 requires the winning candidate to amass a majority of the total votes, or 50%. Currently, Montana is a plurality state. This means, in order to win, a candidate simply needs to receive the most votes. CI-127 would halt this practice. In the event a candidate is unable to amass half the votes, the Legislature would be required to pass a law as to an outcome.

“Because there are more candidates available, candidates are going to have to work harder to ensure that they have some crossover appeal to the broadest collection of voters in their district in order to get elected and stay elected,” says Senior Advisor for Montanans for Election Reform, Rob Cook.

Cook and other reformists hope this will remove some power from both Republicans and Democrats by encouraging competition and undercutting extremism, while giving Montanans more voting power and choice.

“That process of actually having to earn voters has a tendency to center a lot of political views. So that process in and of itself helps to decrease the current polarization that we see both at the federal level where it’s really severe. And we’re starting to see at the state level,” says Cook.

Of course, not everyone is onboard with the initiatives.

Chairman of the Montana GOP Don Kaltschmidt released a statement allying many Republicans against CI-126.

Kaltschmidt slammed the initiative, calling it “a back door instant runoff voting scheme” that would “be destructive to our elections process, cause confusion, and disenfranchise Montana voters.”

There are also valid concerns over CI-127. Some worry about how much power would be left in the hands of the Legislature should no top-four candidate amass enough votes to be deemed a majority-victor.

As of now, there is no law as to how to proceed in said situation.

“When you put something into the hands of the Legislature, who knows what could happen? And that scares folks,” says Mayor of Choteau Chris Hindoien. “They could come up with something completely different than what we’ve envisioned as a public on how they want to do this.”

The initiatives remain wide-open, still in need of several thousand signatures in order to appear on the general election ballot this November.

Individuals who are interested in signing a petition must do so in the county in which they reside. They must also do so in-person, and not online.