Montana Democratic Party v. State of Montana

DA 20-0396 | Closed

“Candidate suppression is a form of voter suppression and, by that measure, Democratic Party leaders are as guilty as anyone of voter suppression in this century.”   – Michael O’Neil, National Green Party Communications Manager

The Montana Green Party announced on social media that it would not hold a primary because of pending litigation (Montana Green Party v. Stapleton) – the Green Party had claimed that the signature requirement was prohibitively high during the COVID-19 pandemic. Montanans for Conservation, a Republican-backed group, convinced Attorney General hopeful, Royal Davis, Montana Senate hopeful, Gary Marbut, and several others to run as Green Party candidates. The candidates, without the help of the Montana Green Party, managed to obtain enough signatures to hold a primary. The primary was held, and candidates were selected “for the Green Party.” When it was discovered that Montanans for Conservation was backed by Republicans, Democrats pressured more than 500 people to rescind their signatures, rendering the candidates short of the threshold to be on the ballot. Montana Secretary of State Stapleton refused to revoke their signatures so the Democrat Party sued to remove all Green Party candidates from the November general election ballot. 

Gary Marbut, Green Party candidate for Montana State Senate, moved to intervene in the suit in an attempt to save his candidacy as well as all other Green Party candidates.  Democrats opposed the intervention, and Montana Judge James Reynolds issued an order to exclude Green Party candidates from joining the lawsuit.  Consequently, the Green Party was removed from the ballot without an opportunity to participate in the decision.

Marbut commented: “Democrats claim that I have no legal interest in this lawsuit seeking the death of my candidacy. This is typical of their elitist, exclusionary, and hypocritical conduct. On one hand they claim to be inclusive and in favor of choice. But, as soon as it suits them they claim the ballot is their exclusive playground and do their best to run anyone else they can off the playground, especially the little kids. They are nothing but playground bullies desperately seeking exclusive power. People should know Democrats for what they are.”

The Green Party was furious by the heavy-handed approach by Democrats to exclude them from the ballot in order to give Democrat candidates a stronger chance to win.  Specifically, it seems Democrats were trying to give an advantage to sitting Governor Steve Bullock (D) in his Senate race against incumbent Senator Steve Daines (R). The race was rated as a toss up so Democrats thought they had a good chance to use Montana to take back the Senate.  Sen. Daines kept his seat.

“The Montana Democratic Party spent tens of thousands of dollars to suppress Green Party voices … all so Governor Bullock won’t have to face a Green Party candidate that will expose his administration’s corruption,” Montana GOP Executive Director Spenser Merwin told Fox News in a statement.

Montana Secretary of State Staplelton filed an emergency petition with the United States Supreme Court to keep the Green Party candidates on the ballot.  Justice Elana Kagan issued the ruling, declining to take the case.

Green Party ballot access very likely had no impact on the final result of the election. Donald Trump beat Joe Biden in the Treasure State by more than 16 percentage points and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had only received 1.6% of the vote in the 2016 election.  

Case Details


Filing Date


Original Court

US District Court - District of Montana

Current Court

Montana Supreme Court