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HomePoliticsMontana PoliticsOut of state groups spend big on open primary ballot initiative

Out of state groups spend big on open primary ballot initiative

Montanans for Election Reform (MER) has recently seen a surge in financial support, raising a substantial $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2024, with a notable 90% of this funding sourced from two out of state major contributors. This influx of funds signals a significant escalation in MER’s efforts compared to the previous quarter of 2023.

MER’s initiatives center around proposing major changes to Montana’s electoral procedures, with a focus on implementing open primaries.  The initiative, Constitutional Initiative 126, suggests transitioning to open primaries where all candidates would compete on a single ballot during the primary election, with the top four contenders advancing to the general election.Under this scenario, every race could be a 4 way race and a candidate be elected with just a small minority of the vote.

A substantial portion of MER’s financial backing comes from Unite America PAC, a liberal group based in Denver, and Article IV, a liberal so called “dark money”group from Virginia that does not disclose its contributors. Unite America PAC and Article IV promote electoral changes generally viewed to help Democrat candidates.

Additionally, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a left-leaning “dark money” group headquartered in Washington, D.C., which also contributed $100,000. The Sixteen Thirty Fund has a track record of supporting various ballot initiatives, including those related to contentious issues such as abortion rights and marijuana legalization.

Despite the financial backing and enthusiasm for these initiatives, there are voices of concern and opposition within the political landscape. The Montana GOP, for instance, has expressed opposition, particularly to ranked choice voting, citing concerns that it may not align with their party’s interests. This opposition highlights a broader debate within the state regarding the potential impact of these electoral reforms.

While individual contributions to MER represent a smaller fraction of the total funding, they do reflect localized support for the initiatives. Amy Tykeson, a donor from Ovando, made a substantial contribution to the cause, indicating that there is diverse support for electoral reforms across different regions of Montana.

MER’s fundraising efforts have primarily focused on signature gathering activities, with significant expenditures directed towards consulting, staffing, and legal services.

By: Montana Newsroom staff

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