Deadline passes for petition signature efforts; no results for a month

Time is up for turning in petition signatures for the November Ballot. Advocates for various ballot initiatives have been been asking voters to sign these petitions for months now. Two initiatives look very likely to make the ballot, with others uncertain.

But the Secretary of State’s office says a lot of work has to be done before we know what makes the ballot.

Here’s what we do know. IR-124 will appear on the November Ballot. That’s the initiative that puts the Medical Marijuana reform bill passed by the last legislature before voters. We’ve actually known that for a while now. Signature gatherers got their totals in very early.

Then there’s Initiative 166. This is the non-binding requirement that elected Montana officials put into place policies saying corporations are not people. Sponsors released a statement this week saying they have turned in enough signatures too.

“But I would just like to remind people that there is still a certification and tabulation process that could change the number of those signatures that were turned in,” said Communications Director for the Montana Secretary of State’s Office Terri McCoy. The turning-in of signatures is far from the last word on initiatives.

“Every single signature is checked and verified,” she said, “and not only verified that you are a voter in the state but that your signature matches what you have on record with your voter registration.”

County election officials do this across the state. For initiatives altering state policy, they need to count almost 25-thousand signatures. For those altering the state Constitution, it’s almost 50 thousand.

Lewis and Clark County Elections Supervisor Marilyn Bracken says they won’t be able to even start counting the signatures until they get through the big stack of voter registration cards that go along with many of those signatures. She says that’s unusual—so many people registering to vote in order to sign petitions.

“That didn’t used to happen that way, we didn’t used to get a big stack of registrations that kind of slows us down because we can’t do the petitions until the registrations are in. Otherwise there’d be a lot of people and it wouldn’t qualify,” Bracken said.

Officials are counting for four other initiatives right now—including one defining personhood as beginning at conception. But the Secretary of State’s office won’t be releasing the final signature counts until July 20th.


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