Citizens Opposing Political Corruption
    in Montana's Elections

People's Power League 
Fighting Corporate Control of Montana Government
Since June 11, 1911


For 102 years, Montana voters have nominated candidates in an Open Primary.  They've chosen candidates for U.S. Senate and House of Representative, governor and other state offices, continuing down the ballot to local and party officials. During that time, the Open Primary was often attacked by corporate interests that wanted to control Montana Government. Montana voters responded by destroying their plans. 

It all started in 1912 when a small group of determined citizens put the Open Primary Initiative on the ballot.  Even with overwhelming corporate opposition, the initiative passed with 78% of the vote.

In 1919, U.S. Senator Joseph Dixon, a Republican, was out of office and back in Missoula publishing the Missoulian. He was well-placed to block all attempts of the Anaconda Company to dismantle the Open Primary. He was so beloved by the voters, they elected him Governor in the greatest landslide victory ever recorded in the state. His coat-tails carried Republicans into every national and statewide office. In addition, Republicans filled 76% of the State Senate seats and 91% of those in the State House. (See the campaign poster to right.)

Republicans are known for their memories so fast-forward to the 1985 legislature.  Republican State Representatives stood up against Democrats who wanted to close the Open Presidential Preference Primary. It was a fierce legislative battle.  Democrats lost in more ways than one.  Voters elected Republican Governors for 16 years -- Stan Stevens, Marc Racicot, and Judy Martz.

But wait, in 1964 Republicans raided or crossed over to elect a weak Democratic candidate for governor and give Gov. Tim Babcock an free ride in November.  20%  of the voters crossed over but they failed. (See news articles to the right.)

In 2015, Montanans are again fighting about the Open Primary, but now the parties are switched.  The right-wingers are trying to close the open primary or get rid of the primary all together.  Republican's with a memory, Attorney General Tim Fox and State Representative Steve Fitzpatrick, are  countering to avoid what could be the party's political meltdown in 2016.  But, the right-wing "newbys" aren't listening.

The penalty for the attempt to destroy the Open Primary could be the same as in 1985.  But now the result would be a Democratic Governor in 2016, 2020, 2024, and even 2028.

For more details click on the date below:

  • 1919: The Montana Legislature tried three times to end the open primary in 1919 but failed. One time involved the Montana Supreme Court.

  • 1924: The legislature humbly put a referendum on the ballot that would end only the Open Presidential Preference Primary.  Voters, by a narrow margin, agreed.  Having made peace with the Democrats, voters returned them to the governor's office for the next 16 years.

  • 1954: Republicans went to the voters to restore the Open Presidential Preference Primary and were rewarded with the Governor’s office for the next 16 years. But, the Republican Party experimented with statewide crossover voting in the primaries.  When voters found out, they put Democrats back in the governor’s office for the next 20 years.

  • 1985: Once more Democrats tried to close the Open Presidential Preference Primary based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about Freedom to Associate. The Republicans fought them to a stand still.  Republicans were rewarded with control of the governor’s office for the next 16 years.

  • 2016: Will the Republican Party suffer the same fate for attempting to close the Open Primary? Will they lock themselves out of the governor’s office into the foreseeable future? Or, will they find that closing the primary is not really their cup of tea?  Freedom of Association also allows Republicans to be inclusive and reject being exclusive.

So Where's the Proof?      Click Here

Check the facts in the full report on the history of the Open Primary.  The story is inspiring and even entertaining.  It's a long story -- interwoven with 102 years of political history in Montana.

Click on the dates in the timeline to go directly to the material you find most interesting.  But, don't miss the conclusion.  History is cycling again and Matthew Monforton may regret leaping before he has looked into Montana's history.

 To Learn More

The Montana Nonpartisan  1919

The poster above was published in the Montana Nonpartisan, a Great Falls newspaper.  It appeared during the 1919 fight to stop any legislation designed to end the Open Primary. 


1964 Primary Election Tuesday, June 2 --Interest Not Great Despite Party Races

The battle for gubernatorial nomination on the Democratic ticket is probably the state's most interesting (race). What would probably be a sure bet for Roland Renne in most states could become extremely complicated in the Montana Primary. Most concede if Democrats were the only ones to vote in their primary, Renne would have no difficulty. Montana, however, does not require party voter registration and voters may cast their ballots in either party's primary so long as they cast all their votes for one party. Despite admonitions against it from officials of both parties, a large Republican crossover is expected to make Mike Kuchera, Billings polka band furniture dealer, a dangerous contender for the Democratic nomination.

Choteau Acantha, May 28, 1964
Vol. 71, No. 4,  p. 1 by Bob Amick

Republican Crossover is Evident
in Teton County Primary Polling
Bob Amick

Analysis of the unofficial Teton county election returns revealed
voters reacted as was expected in at least two instances. First, a
fair number of Republicans switched parties for the primary in
an attempt to put Mike Kuchera up against Gov. Tim Babcock in the Nov. 3 general election. Second, Democrats turned out in larger numbers to cast their ballots. Teton County Democrats, for the primary at least, followed through with enthusiasm generated at a party rally in Fairfield a few weeks ago and turned out in strength.

Choteau Acantha, June 4, 1964
Vol. 71, No. 5, p. 1  by Bob Amick



Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, and nine others was joined by the Montana Republican Party to sue the Secretary of State and end Montana's "Open Primary."  The case was assigned to the Honorable Brian Morris September 2014. 


The question:
When the state requires the Republican Party to choose its candidates in an "Open Primary" is its first amendment right of association violated?

The Republican Party wants a "Closed Primary" along with lists of registered Republican voters provided at state expense.


For over 100 years, the Republicans advocated the use of an Open Primary in Montana.   In fact, the MTGOP has historically been a stronger advocate of the "Open Primary" than the Democratic Party.