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Green Party primary ballot means big printing cost for counties

Posted at 3:07 PM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 17:07:03-04

Montana’s contested Green Party primary this June means county election offices must print thousands of additional ballots – so they can give one to every person who votes.

The additional printing cost for the state’s six most populous counties will be at least $130,000 – and election officials say they expect perhaps some other additional costs and time to tally write-in votes on Green Party ballots.

The Green Party has only one contested primary race, between Steve Kelly and Tim Adams, both of Bozeman, who filed March 12 to run for U.S. Senate under the Green Party banner.

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, Montana’s chief election officer, decided last week that state law dictates the two men will appear on a separate Green Party ballot for the June 5 primary election.

Every primary election voter will be given three ballots – Democratic, Republican and Green – and then choose which one they want to vote. They then must return the two ballots they don’t use, while the voted ballot is counted.

Voters can vote in only one party primary – meaning if they choose the Green Party ballot, they cannot vote in any contested Republican or Democratic primaries.

The Green Party ballot will have the one contested U.S. Senate race, which will be determined by whoever chooses and votes that ballot. The winner advances to the general election, to compete against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Libertarian Rick Breckenridge and the Republican nominee.

But the Green Party ballot also will list all other electoral contests, even though they have no Green Party candidate.

On Thursday, Green Party officials said they’re encouraging those who choose the party’s primary ballot to write in candidates for those other offices, such as the state Legislature, in an attempt to qualify them for the general election ballot in November.

“It’s unique for Green Party politics nationally,” Green Party state coordinator Dani Breck told MTN News. “This state runs primaries differently. I think it’s working to our benefit in this situation.”

Green Party write-in candidates must get a minimum number of primary votes to qualify for the general election ballot: 5 percent of the total of votes of the person who won that particular race in 2016.

In some state House races, that threshold could be as low as 100 votes, for a Green Party write- in to qualify for the general election.

Kelly, a Bozeman artist and environmental activist, said he’s looking forward to the campaign for U.S. Senate, both in the primary and the general.

“I’ll be saying that now you have an unusual, maybe first-ever choice, outside the two-party duopoly,” he told MTN News Thursday. “I think people are pretty much fed up with bouncing back between the two parties that don’t live up to their promises.

“They’re going to get the (Green Party) ballot, they can look it over. They can check out my website. I’m getting some yard signs up.”