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Put voters back in charge of election system

| April 23, 2024 7:00 AM

Most of us don’t need a poll or a survey to tell us our politics are broken. Montana voters deserve more freedom, better choices and greater accountability from our elected leaders.

That’s why we, alongside a broad coalition of Montanans from around the state, are working hard to qualify CI-126 and CI-127 for the ballot this November to put voters back in charge of our election system and our government.

CI-126 creates a true open primary system that allows all voters the freedom to vote for any candidate they choose in the primary election. No more being forced to choose one party’s ballot or the other–every voter gets all of the same choices. 

The top four vote-getters would then advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation, giving more voters an opportunity to hear from more candidates throughout an entire election.

CI-127 would require winning candidates to earn a majority of votes in the general election, meaning at least 50% plus one vote. That stops candidates from sneaking through without gaining the support of the majority of voters in their district. 

Together, these citizen initiatives will better align our election system with the will of Montana voters.

In the last election, only 6% of Montana voters effectively elected 88% of the Montana House.

Why? Because most districts overwhelmingly favor one party or the other and aren’t seriously competitive in the general election. That means low-turnout primary elections, when voters are forced to choose one party’s ballot, are the decisive election in most races.  

Party bosses and special interests use our current system to install their candidates of choice in primary elections when fewer voters participate and it’s easier to influence elections. Too many candidates waltz into easy–or unopposed–general elections. 

With CI-126 and CI-127, candidates can still file for office with a party affiliation, just as they do now. But open primaries take the power away from political parties and put it back in the hands of all voters where it belongs. Those who pull the strings behind the curtain don’t want to give up their so-called “freedom” to restrict voter’s choices and maintain their influence in primaries, but we think that freedom should belong to every Montanan. 

It makes sense that those who benefit the most from the current system have the most to lose if it changes. The status quo is working for some. But is it working for you? 

We trust Montana voters to think for themselves. Montanans want to be able to vote for the person, not just the party. And we deserve more and better choices on the ballot in November. 

If you think Montana voters should be in charge of our elections, we urge you to join the growing coalition of Montanans supporting CI-126 and CI-127. Sign a petition in your local community so we can give voters more independence, better choices, and hold politicians accountable. 

Bruce Tutvedt, former Republican State Senator and Chair of Montanans for Election Reform, and Ted Kronebusch, small business owner from Conrad and former Executive Committee Member for the Montana Republican Central Committee