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Green Party, independent candidate sue for ballot access in Montana’s special House election

A trio of plaintiffs, including two from the Montana Green Party, are suing the Montana secretary of state in federal court to put two more candidates onto the special election ballot for U.S. House of Representatives.

The lawsuit against Secretary of State Corey Stapleton was filed by Thomas and Danielle Breck of Missoula, and Steve Kelly of Bozeman, in U.S. District Court in Missoula on Wednesday.

It says that Thomas Breck was selected on March 4 as the Montana Green Party’s nominee for the coming congressional election to replace Ryan Zinke, now secretary of the interior, as Montana’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

 It also says that Kelly would like to run as an independent candidate in the same election to be held on May 25.

According to the lawsuit, Stapleton incorrectly published the candidate filing deadline and that Breck and Kelly submitted their declaration and oath of candidacy but have not received a response.

Neither was able to collect the tens of thousands of signatures required of non-qualified minor-party and independent candidates in the short time frame.

And because there’s no special signature requirement, they argue that Montana’s ballot-access laws violate their constitutional rights.

“What it boils down to is a long-standing line of Supreme Court cases that say ballot-access restrictions implicate the First Amendment’s right of association and it’s the 14th Amendment that makes it applicable to the states,” said Georgia attorney Bryan Sells who is representing the plaintiffs.

He added that adding the names of the two candidates would vindicate the voting rights of all Montanans who want the choice of a Green Party or independent candidate in the special election.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state did not respond to a request for comment.

Libertarian Mark Wicks, Democrat Rob Quist and Republican Greg Gianforte have been qualified for the special election ballot.

Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or tcarter@dailychronicle.com. He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.

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