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 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 every time.


Ravalli County Republican Central Committee and nine others appealed the decision of the Honorable Judge Brian Morris on February 12, 2015.  At the end of the legislative session, May 12, 2015, Matthew Monforton conceded that his appeal was over.


Appellants requested that the court dismiss the appeal with each side bearing its own costs.  The appeal concerned First Amendment rights that may have been  violated by statutes requiring the internal leadership of political parties be selected by non-party members.

On May 5, 2015, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed into law HB 454.  The law allows political parties to establish their own rules regarding the selection of  internal leaders.  This makes the appeal moot.

Timeline of Battles Won and Victories Delayed

  • 1919: Democrats in the legislature tried three times to end the Open Primary.  Voters retaliated and put a Republican into the  governor's office. 

  • 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 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. They were rewarded rewarded with control of the governor’s office for the next 16 years.

  • 2016: Will the Republican Party suffer the same fate that the Democrats had 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?  Freedom of Association allows Republicans to reject being exclusive and continue being inclusive.

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 at Montana's history.

 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)