On Wednesday, the Supreme Court denied the Montana Republican Party’s request to close the 2016 primaries to registered members of the party.
Montana has been an open primary state since 1912, meaning that voters do not have to be a registered member of a party to vote in statewide primary elections. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, attorneys for the Republican Party argued that the system hurts the party by allowing nonmembers to vote in “their” taxpayer-funded primaries, thus violating their constitutionally protected right of association.
The Montana GOP filed the petition with the Supreme Court after a district judge refused to close the 2016 primary in December, ruling that there were too many unproven claims about the constitutional burden placed on the party. Though the judge did not place an injunction on this year’s primary election, the GOP’s case will go to trial.
The Supreme Court’s decision means that the Republican primary taking place on June 7 will remain open to all registered voters. However, Montana Republicans vow to continue the fight in hopes of closing the state’s 2018 primaries.
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