Press

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Federal judges order new map for 2022 utility board election

by Eric Dietrich with Montana Free Press | February 10th, 2022

"A panel of federal judges has ordered Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen to use a court-drawn district map for this year’s Public Service Commission elections, shifting the district assignments for four Montana counties days before the March 14 candidate filing deadline for the two PSC seats up for election this year. The order, issued Tuesday, also formally rules that the existing utility regulation board districts, which haven’t been updated by the state Legislature since 2003, have become so unbalanced that they violate voters’ rights to proportional representation."

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Voters offer redrawn PSC districts to federal judges

by Tom Lutey with the Billings Gazette | February 10th, 2022

"Voters challenging the unconstitutional balance of Montana’s Public Service Commission districts have submitted maps to a panel of federal judges . . . [Secretary of State] Jacobsen is arguing the PSC districts should remain unconstitutional at least until 2023 when the Montana Legislature meets in general session and could, if it chose to, redraw the districts."

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Judge strikes part of law, saying last-minute changes violated Constitution

by Seaborn Larson with the Independent Record | February 3rd, 2022

"Judge Mike Menahan ruled legislators violated the state Constitution when they added sections unrelated to the original intent of the bill in a late-session meeting without public participation . . . 'The Legislature failed to abide by the Montana Constitution’s few simple rules on lawmaking,' said Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. 'The court has simply held that the Constitution remains supreme.' "

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First two rounds go to Jawort in lawsuit against Hall/Knox

by Mark Berryman with the Sidney Herald | January 28th, 2022

"A federal judge issued an order yesterday blocking the state’s top election official from certifying candidates running for the Public Service Commission until the constitutionality of the commission’s district map has been evaluated . . . The ruling favors the plaintiffs, who sued Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen earlier this month, arguing that the current district map violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

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Federal judge: At least two Public Service Commission districts are ‘presumptively unconstitutional’

by Amanda Eggert with Montana Free Press | December 6th, 2021

"A federal judge issued an order yesterday blocking the state’s top election official from certifying candidates running for the Public Service Commission until the constitutionality of the commission’s district map has been evaluated . . . The ruling favors the plaintiffs, who sued Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen earlier this month, arguing that the current district map violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

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Governor sued for denying records request

by Seaborn Larson with the Independent Record | September 21st, 2021

"A lawsuit filed Tuesday against Gov. Greg Gianforte alleges the governor denied a public records request for documents from the 2021 legislative session. Jayson O'Neill, former executive director of the Western Values Project, is the sole plaintiff in the suit filed in Lewis and Clark County District Court. The suit claims in July the governor's office denied O'Neill's requests submitted in May, shortly after the Legislature adjourned, for agency bill monitoring forms, citing attorney-client privilege. The forms contain legal advice regarding bills passed by the 2021 Legislature, according to the filing. The governor's office also rejected O'Neill's second request for the records earlier this month, the lawsuit states."

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Lawsuit by Montana youth groups calls new Republican election laws 'a cocktail of voter suppression measures'

by Sam Wilson with the Independent Record | September 9th, 2021

"A trio of groups advocating for young Montanans are challenging several changes to Montana’s election laws enacted by the Legislature, calling them 'a cocktail of voter suppression measures that land heavily on the young.' The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Yellowstone County District Court, targets three bills passed by Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte earlier this year. Two are already the subject of existing lawsuits: Senate Bill 169, which tightened voter identification requirements, including requiring that student IDs be augmented with another form of identification for in-person voting; and House Bill 176, which ended Election Day registration in Montana. House Bill 506 previously received attention for a series of last-minute changes to the bill by Republicans, who amended it to alter the process for drawing Montana's new congressional district. Thursday's lawsuit challenges a different aspect of that law, which prevents ballots from being mailed out to new voters in advance of their 18th birthdays."

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Lawsuit claims Secretary of State's Office knowingly profited $120k off duplicate charges

by Maritsa Georgiou with NBC Montana | September 1st, 2021

"A new class action lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses the Montana Secretary of State's Office of knowingly making more than $120,000 off double charging customers without notifying them of the error, saying the office’s policy for resolving overcharges violates Montana law. 'In Montana, the Secretary of State has a side hustle,' the first line of the lawsuit against Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen reads. The suit says the overcharging stems from a technical glitch but claims Jacobsen knew about the problems and carried on her predecessor’s policy of not refunding money unless requested in writing. Attorneys claim the SOS didn’t notify those affected."

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Helena district court judge will block 11th-hour additions to campaign finance law

by Mara Silvers with Montana Free Press | June 28th, 2021

"A district court judge Monday said he will temporarily block the implementation of two sections of a law regulating campaign finance practices, political organizing on college campuses and campaign contributions to judges. The temporary injunction is a win for plaintiffs, including the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) and Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher, whose counsel said the law could throw pending legal proceedings into 'chaos.' "

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