By AMY BETH HANSON, Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s Republican-controlled Legislature violated the state Constitution, a state judge has ruled, when it changed a campaign finance bill late in the 2021 session to make it more difficult to register and encourage college students to vote and to, in effect , limit donations to judicial campaigns.
District Court Judge Mike Menahan on Thursday granted a permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing the two provisions that were added to Senate Bill 319 during a free conference committee — with no public input — a day before the Legislature adjourned.
Montana’s Constitution requires that bills contain a single subject.
The bill initially offered a way for groups of candidates to create joint fundraising committees.
The late amendments included one to prohibit political committees from conducting voter registration, ballot signature gathering, ballot collection efforts or turn-out-the-vote efforts inside a residence hall, dining facility or athletic facility on public college campuses.
The other called for judges to recuse themselves if an attorney or party in a case before them made more than 50% of the maximum allowed donation to their campaign within the previous six years.
Both amendments were outside the title of the bill, making them unconstitutional, Menahan said.
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