Senate Bill No. 340
Introduced By grosfield, grimes, benedict, foster, grady
A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act generally revising the laws governing ballot issues;
increasing the time for election
officials to process ballot measures; prohibiting petitions from containing extraneous material; requiring the signatures of
50 qualified electors in order to submit a petition for review; providing for an extended period of review during certain
times; prohibiting facsimile signatures on petitions; requiring the title of ballot measures to conform to standards for bills;
increasing the permissible length of statements of purpose; amending sections 5-4-102, 13-27-201, 13-27-202, 13-27-301,
13-27-303, 13-27-312, and 13-27-315, MCA; and providing an immediate effective date."
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:
Section 1. Section 5-4-102, MCA, is amended to read:
"5-4-102. Limitation on title of referred legislation. All bills referred by the legislature to a vote of the people
must have a title of no more than 100 150 words."
Section 2. Section 13-27-201, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-27-201. Form of petition generally. (1) A petition for the initiative, the referendum, or to call a constitutional convention must be substantially in the form provided by this chapter. Clerical or technical errors that do not interfere with the ability to judge the sufficiency of signatures on the petition do not render a petition void.
(2) Petition sheets may not exceed 8 1/2 x 14 inches in size. Separate sheets of a petition may be fastened in sections of not
more than 25 sheets. Near the top of each sheet containing signature lines must be printed the title of the statute or
constitutional amendment proposed or the measure to be referred or a statement that the petition is for the purpose of
calling a constitutional convention. If signature lines are printed on both the front and back of a petition sheet, the
above in this subsection must appear on both the front and back of the sheet. The Only a number
assigned pursuant to 13-27-203, the title, ADMINISTRATIVE INSTRUCTIONS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE, and
the complete text of the measure proposed or referred must may be attached to or contained within each signature sheet if
sheets are circulated separately. The petition or signature sheets may not contain material other than the material required
in this section CHAPTER. The title and the text of the measure must be in the bill form provided in the most recent issue of
the bill drafting manual furnished by the legislative services division. If sheets are circulated in sections, the complete text
of the measure must be attached to each section."
Section 3. Section 13-27-202, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-27-202. Recommendations -- approval of form required. (1) Before submission of a sample sheet to the secretary of state pursuant to subsection (3), the following requirements must be fulfilled:
(a) The text of the proposed measure, along with the signatures of AT LEAST 50 different registered voters, must be
submitted to the
legislative services division for review secretary of state. The signatures may be randomly checked by the
secretary of state. The secretary of state shall submit a petition complying with this subsection (1)(a) to the legislative
services division for review. If at any time the secretary of state determines that FEWER THAN 50 OF the signatures
submitted with a proposed measure are invalid WERE VALID AT THE TIME THEY WERE MADE, the proposed
measure is considered withdrawn. THE VALIDITY OF SIGNATURES SUBMITTED PURSUANT TO THIS
SUBSECTION (1)(A) MAY NOT BE INVALIDATED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE OR CHALLENGED AS TO
THEIR VALIDITY BY ANOTHER PERSON AFTER THE SECRETARY OF STATE HAS SENT NOTICE OF THE
APPROVAL OR REJECTION OF THE PETITION IN ACCORDANCE WITH SUBSECTION (4).
(b) The legislative services division staff shall review the text for clarity, consistency, and any other factors the council staff considers when drafting proposed legislation.
Within Except as provided in subsection (1)(c)(ii), within 14 days after submission of the text, the legislative
services division staff shall make to the person submitting the text written recommendations for changes in the text or a
statement that no changes are recommended.
(ii) If the legislature is in session or if the legislature is to be convened within 30 days of the date of the submission of the text, the legislative services division shall complete the review required in subsection (1)(c)(i) within 30 days after submission of the text.
(d) The person submitting the text shall consider the recommendations and respond in writing to the legislative services division, accepting, rejecting, or modifying each of the recommended changes. If no changes are recommended, no response is required.
(2) The legislative services division shall furnish a copy of the correspondence provided for in subsection (1) to the secretary of state, who shall make a copy of the correspondence available to any person upon request.
(3) Before a petition may be circulated for signatures, a sample sheet containing the text of the proposed measure must be submitted to the secretary of state in the form in which it will be circulated. The sample petition may not be submitted to the secretary of state more than 1 year prior to the final date for filing the signed petition with the secretary of state. The secretary of state shall refer a copy of the petition sheet to the attorney general for approval. The secretary of state and attorney general shall each review the petition for sufficiency as to form and approve or reject the form of the petition, stating the reasons for rejection, if any. The secretary of state or the attorney general may not reject the petition solely because the text contains material not submitted to the legislative services division unless the material not submitted to the legislative services division is a substantive change not suggested by the legislative services division.
(4) The secretary of state shall review the comments and statements of the attorney general received pursuant to 13-27-312 and make a final decision as to the approval or rejection of the form of the petition. The secretary of state shall send written notice to the person who submitted the petition sheet of the approval or rejection within 28 days after submission of the petition sheet. If the petition is rejected, the notice must include reasons for rejection.
(5) A petition with technical defects in form may be approved with the condition that those defects will be corrected before the petition is circulated for signatures.
(6) The secretary of state shall upon request provide the person submitting the petition with a sample petition form, including the text of the proposed measure, the statement of purpose, and the statements of implications, all as approved by the secretary of state and the attorney general. The petition may be circulated in the form of the sample prepared by the secretary of state."
Section 4. Section 13-27-301, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-27-301. Submission of petition sheets -- withdrawal of signatures. (1) Signed sheets or sections of petitions
must be submitted to the official responsible for registration of electors in the county in which the signatures were obtained
no sooner than 9 months and no later than 4 7 4 weeks before the final date for filing the petition with the secretary of state.
Only original signatures may be submitted. Facsimile copies or electronic transmissions are not acceptable.
(2) Signatures may be withdrawn from a petition for constitutional amendment, constitutional convention, initiative, or
referendum up to the time of final submission of petition sheets as provided in subsection (1). The secretary of state shall
prescribe the form to be used by an elector desiring to
have his withdraw the elector's signature withdrawn from a petition." Section 5. Section 13-27-303, MCA, is amended to read: "13-27-303. Verification of signatures by county official -- allocating voters following reapportionment -- duplicate
signatures. (1) Except as required by 13-27-104, within 4 7 weeks after receiving the sheets or sections of a petition, the
county official shall check the names of all signers to verify they are registered electors of the county. In addition, the
official shall randomly select signatures on each sheet or section and compare them with the signatures of the electors as
they appear in the registration records of the office. If all the randomly selected signatures appear to be genuine, the number
of signatures of registered electors on the sheet or section may be certified to the secretary of state without further
comparison of signatures. If any of the randomly selected signatures do not appear to be genuine, all signatures on that
sheet or section must be compared with the signatures in the registration records of the office. (2) For the purpose of allocating the signatures of voters among the several legislative representative districts of the state
as required to certify a petition for a ballot issue under the provisions of this chapter following the filing of a districting and
apportionment plan under 5-1-111 and before the first gubernatorial election following the filing of the plan, the new
districts must be used with the number of signatures needed for each legislative representative district being the total votes
cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election divided by the number of legislative representative districts. (3) Upon discovery of fraudulent signatures or duplicate signatures of an elector on any one issue, the election
administrator may submit the name of the elector or the petition circulator, or both, to the county attorney to be investigated
under the provisions of 13-27-106 and 13-35-207."
Section 5. Section 13-27-312, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-27-312. Review of petition by attorney general -- preparation of statements -- fiscal note. (1) Upon receipt of a
petition from the office of the secretary of state pursuant to 13-27-202, the attorney general shall examine the petition as to
form and, if the proposed ballot issue has an effect on the
revenues revenue, expenditures, or the fiscal liability of the state,
shall order a fiscal note incorporating an estimate of such the effect, the substance of which must substantially comply with
the provisions of 5-4-205. The budget director, in cooperation with the agency or agencies affected by the petition, is
responsible for preparing the fiscal note and shall return it within 6 days unless the attorney general, for good cause shown,
extends the time for completing the fiscal note.
(2) If the petition form is approved, the attorney general shall endeavor to seek out parties on both sides of the issue and obtain their advice. The attorney general shall prepare:
(a) a statement, not to exceed
100 150 words, explaining the purpose of the measure; and
(b) statements, not to exceed 25 words each, explaining the implications of a vote for and a vote against the measure.
(3) The attorney general shall prepare a fiscal statement of no more than 50 words if a fiscal note was prepared for the
proposed ballot issue,
such and the statement to must be used on the petition and ballot if the measure is placed on the
(4) The statement of purpose and the statements of implication must express the true and impartial explanation of the
proposed ballot issue in plain, easily understood language and may not be arguments or written so as to create prejudice for
or against the measure.
The statement of purpose must be in the format for bill titles provided in the most recent issue of
the bill drafting manual furnished by the legislative services division.
(5) The statement of purpose, unless altered by a court under 13-27-316, is the petition title for the measure circulated by the petition and the ballot title if the measure is placed on the ballot.
(6) The statements of implication
shall must be placed beside the diagram provided for marking of the ballot in a manner
similar to but not limited to the following example:
 FOR extending the right to vote to persons 18 years of age
 AGAINST extending the right to vote to persons 18 years of age
(7) If the petition is rejected as to form, the attorney general shall forward
his the rejection comments to the secretary of
state within 21 days after receipt of the petition by the attorney general. If the petition is approved as to form, the attorney
general shall forward the statement of purpose, the statements of implication, and the fiscal statement, if applicable, to the
secretary of state within 21 days after receipt of the petition by the attorney general."
Section 6. Section 13-27-315, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-27-315. Statements by attorney general on issues referred by legislature. (1) Upon receipt of a copy of a ballot
form under 13-27-310(2) for an issue proposed by the legislature, the attorney general shall order a fiscal note as provided
in 13-27-312(1) if the issue has an effect on the
revenues revenue, expenditures, or the fiscal liability of the state. At the
same time the explanatory statement is prepared under subsection (2), the attorney general shall prepare a fiscal statement
of no more than 50 words to be forwarded to the secretary of state at the same time as the explanatory statement.
(2) At the same time the attorney general, pursuant to 13-27-313, informs the secretary of state of the approval or rejection
of a ballot form for an issue proposed by the legislature, the attorney general shall forward to the secretary of state a
statement, not exceeding
100 150 words, expressing a true and impartial explanation of the purpose of the measure in plain,
easily understood language. The statement may not be an argument and may not be written to create a prejudice for or
against the issue. The statement prepared under this section is known as the attorney general's explanatory statement.
(3) If statements of the implication of a vote for or against a ballot issue have not been provided by the legislature, the attorney general shall prepare the statements. Requirements for statements of implication for ballot issues referred by the legislature are the same as those provided in 13-27-312 for other ballot issues. Statements of implication prepared by the attorney general must be returned to the secretary of state no later than the time specified for approval of the ballot form."
NEW SECTION. Section 7. Effective date. [This act] is effective on passage and approval.