The Montana secretary of state's office reports that nearly 50 complaints have been received regarding the manner in which initiative petitions were circulated. While a few of the complaints were directed at petitions that did not qualify for the ballot, 85 percent of them had to do with two of the three initiatives that did qualify.
The nature of the complaints is familiar -- deception on the part of circulators about the nature of the proposal and non-state residents serving as circulators. The sponsors of the two qualified measures that received complaints -- CI-106, which would prohibit any new taxes on real estate transactions, and I-161, which would ban outfitter-sponsored hunting in the state -- insist that their circulators were properly trained and followed all laws.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch agreed earlier this year to receive complaints about signature-gathering tactics, even though she is powerless to do anything about violations. In Montana, neither the secretary of state nor the Commissioner of Political Practices has the statutory authority to investigate or prosecute violations of the laws governing petitioning. Violations must be pursued by the public through the civil courts.
In September 2006, three measures were removed from the Montana ballot after a judge found that circulators (all hired by the same firm) had broken the laws governing petition circulation. The case was upheld by the state supreme court in October, and the three measures stayed off the ballot.
Read more about this year's complaints in the Great Falls Tribune.