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Montana urges judge to reject electronic signatures lawsuit

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Attorneys for the state have urged a Montana judge to reject a proposal seeking permission to collect signatures electronically for a recreational marijuana ballot initiative while preventive coronavirus measures are in place.

Attorneys for the state secretary of state and state attorney general offices filed their response Tuesday after New Approach Montana argued in a lawsuit that state measures have impeded the group’s ability to carry out traditional signature gathering, the Missoulian reported.

New Approach Montana is seeking to temporarily halt enforcement of in-person signature gathering requirements.

State attorneys argued the group did not present enough evidence of voter fraud prevention and that the matter should be taken up with the executive or legislative branches, rather than the courts.

New Approach Montana was approved in March to gather signatures for two ballot measures that would legalize marijuana use for those 21 and older.

The campaign needs to secure 25,468 signatures for the ballot initiative, and 50,936 signatures for the constitutional amendment to appear before voters.

The group has already contracted with third-party company, DocuSign Inc., to collect signatures remotely.

“We felt like the courts definitely had jurisdiction over this,” Pepper Petersen, political director of New Approach, said Thursday. “This is why the courts exist, for emergencies like this.”

New Approach is expected to respond to the state’s filing. A judge has scheduled a telephone hearing for next Tuesday.

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