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Montana 2021 Legislature

Montana Lawmakers Reject Bill Making Judicial Elections Partisan

Voters in Clinton, Mont. cast ballots during the 2016 elections.
Bekah Welch
/
University of Montana School of Journalism
Voters in Clinton, Mont. cast ballots during the 2016 elections.

Montana lawmakers voted down a bill Tuesday that would have made judicial elections partisan. It was just one of several policy changes aimed at changing how judges get to the bench that legislators are considering this session.

House Bill 342 would have required judges and justices to be nominated and elected on partisan ballots, a major change from the political independence judicial elections currently have.

Rep. Matt Regier, a Republican from Kalispell, is carrying the bill. He said judges and justices have political persuasions. 

“I believe we should let the voters know that," Regier said.

The bill was voted down 44-56 on the House floor, with some Republicans joining Democrats in voting against it.

Democratic Rep. Robert Farris-Olsen said he opposes the bill "... because it guts the independent nature of our judicial system."

Another bill — one that would eliminate the Judicial Nomination Commission and allow the governor to make judicial appointments to vacancies directly — is advancing.

Senate Bill 140 has passed the Senate and will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday morning.