Citizens Opposing Political Corruption
    in Montana's Elections

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


Taunting Montana Voters Can Be Dangerous
to the Success of Montana's Political Parties

For 102 years, Montana voters have nominated candidates in an open primary starting with U.S. senator and representatives, governor and other state officials, continuing down the ballot to local officials. The record on the open primary has been a tug-of-war with voters winning until now. There lies the story.

Timeline of Battles Won and Victories Delayed

  • 1919: Democrats in the legislature tried three times to end the Open Primary. Prior to this legislative session, Montana had elected Democratic governors for 24 years, but voters now retaliated and put a Republican into the  governor's office.  The voters also gave the governor a Republican majority in both the House and Senate.  Adding them up, the Republican legislators overwhelmed the Democrats -- 139 to 23. 

  • 1924: The new legislature, having regained a reasonable number of Democrats, humbly put a referendum on the ballot that would end the Open Presidential Preference Primary.  Voters, by a narrow margin, repealed the primary.  They also made peace with the Democrats and 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. Montana might still be governed by a Republican governor but the party experimented with statewide crossover voting. In 1965, the public learned of the abuse of the Open Primary. The Republican blunder put Democrats back into the governor’s office for 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 blocked four bills that would have closed the primary. Voters rewarded Republicans with control of the governor’s office for the next 16 years.

  • 2016: Will the Republican Party pay a steep political cost for closing 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? Only time will tell. Freedom of Association allows Republicans to reject being exclusive and continue being inclusive. They can invite all voters to their party.

So Where's the Proof?      Click Here

In the full report on the history of the open primary, you can check the facts to see if you come to the same conclusions.  The story is inspiring and even entertaining.  It's a long story -- interwoven with 102 years of political history in Montana.

Each year of the timeline has a link directly to material that may catch your interest more than others.  But, the best thing is the conclusion.  History may be cycling again and Matthew Monforton may be about to realize what a mistake the Conservative Republicans are making.

 To Learn More

The Montana Nonpartisan  1919

This poster, published in the Montana Nonpartisan - a Great Falls newspaper, appeared during the 1919 fight to stop any legislation designed to end the open primary. 


Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, and nine others didn't like the decision of the Honorable Brian Morris to hear the full lawsuit filed by Matthew Monforton on September, 2014.  So they appealed on February 12, 2015.

The question to be argued in a half hour hearing is:
Does a state law allowing non-Republican voters to select the internal leadership of the Republican Party violate the Party's First Amendment right of association?

Look for the Appellate Court to tell the Central Committees  to read the U.S. Supreme Court ruling 450 U.S. 107 (1981).   It says that the party's right to associate is defined in the Party Rules.

Republican Party Rules  on primary election day in 2014 designated participation in Montana's Open Primary.  At this time, they nominated their candidates and choose the members of the Republican County Committees.

For over 100 years the Republicans have advocated the use of an open primary in Montana.   In fact,  the MTGOP has been a stronger advocate of the open primary than the Democratic Party.

"No stream can rise higher than its source and the law proceeds from the people, consequently there is no such thing as law that stands independent of popular opinion, and for the legislatures and courts to...divorce the law from reason,...would be fatal to the law and destructive to the country." 
Billings Daily Gazette (April  1910)