Bill would have top-two vote earners moving forward from Primary Election, regardless of party

Representative Scott Reichner (R-Big Fork)

Representative Scott Reichner (R-Big Fork)

Montana lawmakers are considering a bill which put in place major changes to the state’s primary election system.

Under Big Fork Republican Representative Scott Reichner’s bill, the two candidates who receive the most votes would move on to the general election, regardless of party.

Currently, voters either choose to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary and choose candidates within that party.

Reichner says the current primary system is not fair to voters who wish to support candidates of different parties in different races.

“The bill has a simple goal, open up our primary elections to Montanans of all political stripes, Democrats, Republicans and everything in between, no more forcing people to choose one party or another,” he said.

 Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (D-Montana) opposes the bill. She says it would limit fair elections through penalizing parties that have many primary candidates splitting up their base.

“Voters who identify with a party may not have a chance to advance their candidate to the general election if the party has significantly more candidates on the ballot than the opposing parties,” she said.

Representative Reichner’s bill would also declare a primary candidate automatically won the general election if he or she gets more than 50 percent of the vote.

The House State Administration Committee did not take action on the bill.

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