Montana Restrictive Law on Write-in Nominations Keeps Republican Off Ballot for One Partisan Statewide Race

Montana voters elect a Clerk of the Supreme Court every six years, in a partisan election. The long-time incumbent, Ed Smith, a Democrat, is running for re-election this year. Generally no Republican runs for this office.

In 2006, there were three candidates on the ballot for this office: the incumbent; a Constitution Party nominee; and a Libertarian. The vote for the Constitution nominee in 2006 was 86,027 votes (24.74%), and the vote for the Libertarian was 37,972 (10.92%). This year again, no Republican filed in the primary for that office, and the Constitution Party is no longer on the ballot. But Mike Fellows, a Libertarian, filed and was nominated in the Libertarian primary.

After filing for the primary had closed, the Executive Director of the Montana Republican Party, Bowen Greenwood, filed as a write-in in the June Republican primary. He received 4,400 write-ins. But Montana has a very difficult barrier for write-in candidates to be nominated in a primary. They must not only outpoll any opponent, their write-in total must equal at least 5% of the vote cast in the last general election for the winning candidate. Greenwood needed at least 11,186 write-ins. Therefore, the Republican Party has no nominee. Fellows is running some radio ads and hopes to poll as much as one-third of the statewide vote.

As an aside, it seems somewhat irrational for any state to provide that voters choose the Clerk of the State Supreme Court. As far as is known, the only other state that has elected this position since World War II is Indiana.


  1. Lets hope the Libertarian can really give this democrat a scare and get to 40% taking a county or two!

  2. Why doesn’t the Republican Party run candidates for this office?

  3. The Republicans in Montana, have not ran a candidate for this position since 1988, and there for have not had a full slate of candidates in those years when the clerk is elected.

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