Proposing a Statewide Ballot Issue
Any individual or group may petition to:
- Enact a law by initiative,
- Approve or reject an act of the Legislature by referendum, or
- Amend the Montana State Constitution.
A member of the public proposing a ballot issue must follow specific steps:
Step 1 – Drafting a Ballot Issue
When drafting a proposed ballot issue, ensure it includes the following:
- Draft text of the ballot issue
- Draft ballot statements to appear on the ballot:
- The Statement of Purpose and Implication; and
- “Yes” and “No” statements
The standard form for the text and statements is included in Title 13, Chapter 27.
Step 2 – Submitting a Ballot Issue
The proposed ballot issue may be submitted by email to [email protected]. The proposed ballot issue submission must be accompanied by a non-refundable, $3,700 submission fee payment. Note: A waiver of the fee may be obtained under certain circumstances.
The payment may be made in-person, or a check may be mailed to:
Montana Secretary of State’s OfficePO Box 202801 Helena, MT 59620
Ballot Issue Review and Approval Process
- If the proposed ballot issue submission is complete, the Secretary of State’s office will forward the submission to the Legislative Services Division (LSD). LSD reviews the submission for clarity, consistency, and conformity using the bill drafting manual and reviews for other legal requirements. If necessary, LSD makes recommendations for revisions within 14 days of submission of the proposed submission text and statements.
- LSD sends notification directly to the ballot issue sponsor/submitter with any proposed recommendations.
- The ballot issue sponsor/submitter must respond in writing directly to the LSD as directed in the correspondence, either accepting, rejecting, or modifying the proposed ballot issue. If revisions are not recommended, a response is not required.
- If the LSD receives a response from the ballot issue sponsor/submitter either accepting, rejecting, or modifying the recommended changes, LSD then forwards the correspondence related to the proposal to the Secretary of State’s Office.
- After working with LSD, the submitter/sponsor provides the final proposed submission to the Secretary of State’s Office. The Secretary of State’s Office is required to reject the proposed issue if the text or ballot statement contains material not submitted to LSD that is a substantive change not recommended by LSD.
- If the final text and ballot statements are accepted by the Secretary of State’s office, it is then referred to the Attorney General’s Office for legal sufficiency review and the Budget Director to determine whether a fiscal note is necessary.
- The Attorney General’s Office has 30 days following the Budget Director’s review to review the proposed ballot issue and provide the Secretary of State with a statement of whether the ballot issue is “legally sufficient,” and in compliance with statutory and constitutional requirements for submitting proposed issues to the electors. The Attorney General will also provide a fiscal impact statement, if required.
- If the Attorney General approves the proposed ballot issue, the Secretary of State provides the Executive Director of the LSD a copy of the final text of the proposed ballot issue and ballot statements. The Executive Director forwards the information to the appropriate legislative interim committee for a public hearing and vote to support or oppose placement of the issue on the ballot. A statement of the outcome of the vote is placed on the petition form. The Secretary of State’s Office then assigns a ballot initiative number.
- The Secretary of State then creates the petition form for the approved ballot issue with the assigned number, ballot statements, and other information required by statute and provides it to the submitter for signature gathering. The Secretary of State also provides County Election Administrators with the approved form of the ballot issue.
- If the Attorney General rejects the proposed ballot issue, the Secretary of State sends a notice to the ballot issue sponsor/submitter, including a copy of the Attorney General’s legal sufficiency opinion.
Note: The earliest date to circulate petitions for signatures for approved ballot issues (except for legislative referendum) that will appear on the 2024 General Election is June 21, 2023. The earliest date to submit signed ballot issue petitions to county election administrators for 2024 ballot issues (excepted for legislative referendum) is October 19, 2023.