On January 16, the Montana House State Administration Committee heard testimony on HB 120, the Secretary of State’s omnibus election law bill. The Committee won’t vote on the bill for several days. The bill contains several ballot access improvements: (1) it moves the non-presidential independent candidate deadline from March to May; (2) it lets all qualified parties hold a primary if more than a single candidate files for any office in that party’s primary; (3) it eases the requirements on who can be an independent candidate for President and Vice-President. No one testified against any part of the bill, and no legislator objected to any of these changes. The deadline change is required because the old deadline was held unconstitutional last year.
Niki Zupanic (the ACLU lobbyist), and activist Steve Kelly both testified that the deadline portion of the bill should be amended to set the non-presidential independent candidate deadline later than May. The Secretary of State and her top policy assistants were at the hearing and indicated willingness to have the bill amended, so that the deadline would be in mid-July. The bill’s sponsor said she is willing to make any changes to the bill on this point that the Secretary of State requests.