On September 19, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ACLU-MT’s challenge to the Attorney General’s review of the ballot statement and fiscal impact statement accompanying the proposed transgender discrimination initiative, I-183.
The Court found that I-183’s societal and economic consequences were inadequately explained by the ballot initiative's original statements. The Attorney General now must revise the statements in a way that makes plain the impact I-183 would have on taxpayers, local government, and transgender and intersex Montanans.
Montana law states that petitions cannot be signed or gathered prior to the Attorney General’s review. A purpose of the review is to make sure the proposed ballot statement accurately “express the true and impartial explanation of the proposed ballot issue in plain, easily understood language” (Montana Code Annotated § 13-27-312). Until that determination is made, the initiative cannot be circulated for signatures.
Furthermore, those petitions gathered prior to a revision ordered by the Supreme Court are void: “If, upon review, the attorney general or the supreme court revises the petition form or ballot statements, any petitions signed prior to the revision are void” (Montana Code Annotated § 13-27-316).
“The law is clear,” said Alex Rate, ACLU of Montana legal director. “Petitions gathered using the old statements are not valid. They do not accurately describe the initiative that has been proposed. If ballot signatures continue to be collected before the Attorney General revises the statements to be legally sufficient, this will inhibit Montana voters’ ability to make intelligent and informed decisions and will undermine the legitimacy of our democratic process.”