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 selected candidates for U.S. Senate and House of Representative, governor and other state offices, continuing down the ballot to local and party officials. The Open Primary has always been under attack by corporate interests that want to dominate Montana Government. Montana voters have won every battle. 

Enacting the Open Primary Initiative in 1912 pitted a small group of dedicated citizens against overwhelming corporate opposition. Democrat Thomas Walsh is often credited with an amazing victory when 78% voted for the initiative. But few realize the critical role played by Republican U.S. Senator Joseph Dixon. There is a reason why both Dixon and Walsh are honored in the Capitol Rotunda.

Walsh followed Dixon as U.S. Senator and left Montana to fight corruption in Washington D.C.  Dixon returned to Missoula and took up the reins of the Missoulian. He successfully blocked all attempts of the Anaconda Company to dismantle the Open Primary. He was so beloved by Montana voters in 1920 that he became 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.

In the 1985 legislature, Republican State Representatives remembered past victories and stood up against Democrats who wanted to close the Open Primary. It was a fierce legislative battle that made the Legislative fights this spring look like playground fisticuffs.

Montana retained the Open Primary in 1985 and voters elected Republican Governors for 16 years -- Stan Stevens, Marc Racicot, and Judy Martz.

Once again Montanans are fighting about the Open Primary. Republican Attorney General Tim Fox and State Representative Steve Fitzpatrick are trying to calm things down to keep the party from destroying all chances of electing a governor. Republican "newbys" are not listening to the older/wiser voices in the party. Of course, if Republicans want to see Democrat Steve Bulloch re-elected, they are welcome to line up behind their Pied Piper, State Representative Matthew Monforton.

For more details and the latest victory:

  • 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 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 into 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 Central Committees.

For over 100 years the Republicans have 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.

"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)