New Lawsuit Filed Against Montana Law that Tells Candidates What to Put Into their Printed Campaign Literature

On January 8, a federal lawsuit was filed by a 2014 Republican candidate for the Montana legislature, against a law that says if a candidate puts out any printed campaign literature that mentions his or her opponent’s voting record, that literature must also include all of that opponent’s votes on “the same issue” during the last six years.

The case is Monforton v Motl, 6:14cv-0002. It is being expedited, because the plaintiff-candidate wants to put up a billboard next month that does not comply with the law. The plaintiff-candidate is running against an incumbent who cast some votes to inhibit implementation of Obamacare within Montana, yet cast other votes on the other side. The plaintiff-candidate does not want to be forced to list all votes cast by his opponent on that subject on his billboard and also on printed literature he plans.

The Montana law, 13-35-225(3)(a), says printed campaign literature that mentions an opponent’s voting record “must also include a reference to the particular vote or votes upon which the information is based; and a disclosure of contrasting votes known to have been made by the candidate on the same issue if the contrasting votes were made in any of the previous six years.” The same law had been held unconstitutional in 2012, because at the time it didn’t specify “six years”; it just said “closely related in time.” Part of the reason the old law was struck down was that “closely related in time” is too vague. So the 2013 legislature removed “closely related in time” and substituted, “six years.” The old law was also struck down because “the same issue” was too vague, but the 2013 session of the legislature did not amend that part of the law.

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