Citizens Opposing Political Corruption
    in Montana's Elections

People's Power League 
Fighting Corporate Control of Montana Government
Since June 11, 1911


For 102 years, Montana voters have nominated candidates in an Open Primary.  They've chosen candidates for U.S. Senate and House of Representative, governor and other state offices, continuing down the ballot to local and party officials. During that time, corporate interests often tried to get rid of the Open Primary and return to the absolute control they had over Montana Government.  With each attack, Montana voters blocked their plans. 

It all started in 1912 when a small group of determined citizens (see the Membership tab above) put the Open Primary Initiative on the ballot.  Even with overwhelming corporate opposition, the initiative passed with 78% of the vote.

In 1919, U.S. Senator Joseph Dixon, a Republican, was out of office and back in Missoula publishing the Missoulian. He was well-placed to block all attempts of the Anaconda Company to dismantle the Open Primary. His efforts were so appreciated by the voters, they elected him Governor in the greatest landslide victory ever recorded in the state. His coat-tails carried Republicans into every national and statewide office. In addition, Republicans won 76% of the State Senate seats and 91% of those in the State House.

Republicans are known for their memories so fast-forward to the 1985 legislature.  Republican State Representatives stood up against Democrats who wanted to close the Open Presidential Preference Primary. It was a fierce legislative battle.  Democrats lost in more ways than one.  Voters elected Republican Governors for 16 years -- Stan Stevens, Marc Racicot, and Judy Martz.

But wait, Republicans have at times forgotten how voters will attack the party that tampers with the primary.  in 1964, Republicans raided or crossed over to elect a weak Democratic candidate for governor and give Gov. Tim Babcock an free ride in November.  20%  of the voters crossed over but they failed.  Who succeeded were the Montanans who in 1968 started a 20-year run of Democrat governors.  They also wrote a new constitution that included a Right to Privacy which gives unique protection to an Open Primary.

In 2015, Montanans were again fighting about the Open Primary.  The right-wing Republicans want to close the open primary or get rid of it all together.  Republican's who know their history, Attorney General Tim Fox and State Representative Steve Fitzpatrick, are countering the attempt. 

The penalty for trying to end the Open Primary may affect Republicans as it did Democrats in 1985.  But now the result would be a Democratic Governor in 2016, 2020, 2024, and even 2028.

For more details click on the date below:

  • 1919: The Montana Legislature tried three times to end the open primary in 1919 but failed. One time involved the Montana Supreme Court.

  • 1924: The legislature humbly put a referendum on the ballot that would end only the Open Presidential Preference Primary.  Voters, by a narrow margin, agreed.  Having made peace with the Democrats, voters returned them to the governor's office for the next 16 years.

  • 1954: Republicans went to the voters to restore the Open Presidential Preference Primary and were rewarded with the Governor’s office for the next 16 years. But, the Republican Party experimented with statewide crossover voting in the primaries.  When voters found out, they put Democrats back in the governor’s office for the next 20 years.

  • 1985: Once more Democrats tried to close the Open Presidential Preference Primary based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about Freedom to Associate. The Republicans fought them to a stand still.  Republicans were rewarded with control of the governor’s office for the next 16 years.

  • 2016: Will the Republican Party suffer the same fate for attempting to close the Open Primary? Will they lock themselves out of the governor’s office into the foreseeable future? Or, will they find that closing the primary is not really their cup of tea?  Freedom of Association also allows Republicans to be inclusive and reject being exclusive.

So Where's the Proof?      Click Here

Check the facts in the full report on the history of the Open Primary.  The story is inspiring and even entertaining.  It's a long story -- interwoven with 102 years of political history in Montana.

Click on the dates in the timeline to go directly to the material you find most interesting.  But, don't miss the conclusion.  History is cycling again and Matthew Monforton may regret leaping before he has looked into Montana's history.

 To Learn More

The Montana Nonpartisan  1919

The poster above was published in the Montana Nonpartisan, a Great Falls newspaper.  It appeared during the 1919 fight to stop any legislation designed to end the Open Primary. 


1964 Primary Election Tuesday, June 2 --Interest Not Great Despite Party Races

The battle for gubernatorial nomination on the Democratic ticket is probably the state's most interesting (race). What would probably be a sure bet for Roland Renne in most states could become extremely complicated in the Montana Primary. Most concede if Democrats were the only ones to vote in their primary, Renne would have no difficulty. Montana, however, does not require party voter registration and voters may cast their ballots in either party's primary so long as they cast all their votes for one party. Despite admonitions against it from officials of both parties, a large Republican crossover is expected to make Mike Kuchera, Billings polka band furniture dealer, a dangerous contender for the Democratic nomination.

Choteau Acantha, May 28, 1964
Vol. 71, No. 4,  p. 1 by Bob Amick

Republican Crossover is Evident
in Teton County Primary Polling
Bob Amick

Analysis of the unofficial Teton county election returns revealed
voters reacted as was expected in at least two instances. First, a
fair number of Republicans switched parties for the primary in
an attempt to put Mike Kuchera up against Gov. Tim Babcock in the Nov. 3 general election. Second, Democrats turned out in larger numbers to cast their ballots. Teton County Democrats, for the primary at least, followed through with enthusiasm generated at a party rally in Fairfield a few weeks ago and turned out in strength.

Choteau Acantha, June 4, 1964
Vol. 71, No. 5, p. 1  by Bob Amick



Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, and nine others was joined by the Montana Republican Party to sue the Secretary of State and end Montana's "Open Primary."  The case was assigned to the Honorable Brian Morris September 2014. 


The question:
When the state requires the Republican Party to choose its candidates in an "Open Primary" is its first amendment right of association violated?

The Republican Party wants a "Closed Primary" along with lists of registered Republican voters provided at state expense.


For over 100 years, the Republicans advocated the use of an Open Primary in Montana.   In fact, the MTGOP has historically been a stronger advocate of the "Open Primary" than the Democratic Party.