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Ballot initiatives to decide controversial issues

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HELENA – Abortion, illegal immigrants, health insurance, medical marijuana and corporate personhood are all scheduled to appear on the general election ballot this fall.

This list, rife with controversy, will have Montana voters checking FOR or AGAINST on a list of five ballot initiatives on Nov. 6.

Three of the measures are Legislative Referendums, meaning the 2011 State Legislature added them to the ballot to alter existing laws. LR-120 would require parental notification prior to abortion for a minor. LR-121 would deny certain state services to illegal aliens. LR-122 would prohibit mandating the purchase of health insurance.

The other two measures, Initiative Referendum-124 and Initiative-166, are petitions focusing on medical marijuana law and corporate political spending, respectively.

IR-124 is a bill to repeal SB 423, the current medical marijuana law put in place by the 2011 Legislature, which restricts the medical marijuana program. Confusingly, a yes vote on Nov. 6 would enact the new stricter program. A no vote would restore the more lax 2004 laws.

I-166 overturns the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, establishing a state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings, and charges Montana elected and appointed officials, state and federal, to implement that policy.

The Associated Press on Oct. 8 reported that two of the measures, I-166 and LR-122, would not be enforceable if passed because they conflict with federal law. Both measures are related to matters recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. LR-122 was written before the Supreme Court decision.

The state’s medical marijuana law, originally passed in 2004, is also illegal under federal law; it was nearly shut down by a series of raids in 2010 that cracked down on operations doing business over state lines.

To add an initiative or initiative referendum to the ballot (like IR-124 and I-166), groups obtained signatures from 5 percent of the total number of qualified voters in Montana, including 5 percent of the voters in each of 34 legislative house districts (a total of 24,337 signatures for the 2010 ballot).

Voter information packets

Voter information packets with extensive information about the ballot measures were mailed to registered voters in October. Contact the Montana Secretary of State’s office for additional copies, or to receive the materials in brail, audio cd, large print or electronic format. The information packet is also available online at

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