The so-called “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” (TABOR) isn’t yet on the ballot in Montana, but right-wing activists are trying all the dirty tricks they can find to get it there. TABOR arbitrarily caps “increases in state spending based on…population growth and the consumer price index,” restricting a state’s ability to set priorities, respond to crises, and offer public services.
Many Montanans have called the Montana Commission of Political Practices about “being tricked or coerced into signing ballot initiative petitions they didn’t intend to sign.” One of those petitions was CI-97, the state’s TABOR (or “SOS”) measure.
ThinkProgress spoke to Gordy Higgins, the Montana Commissioner of Political Parties. Higgins confirmed that his office has received numerous informal complaints about the petitions’ signature gatherers and expects a formal complaint to be filed with his office sometime this week. Some of the most common schemes he has heard about:
1. The Carbon-Copy Scheme: Signature gatherers would lay out three petitions on a clipboard. The gatherer would discuss one of the petitions — usually the one on eminent domain. If the person signed it, the gatherer would then say, “We can’t have photocopies or carbon copies, so would you mind signing these two other petitions?” Thinking that he or she was signing copies of the first petition, the person would sign the second two. In fact, the second two petitions were on judicial recall and TABOR.
2. The Forgery Scheme: Signature gatherers would have a person sign one petition, then say, “We understand you’re busy – if you write your name on the first one, we’ll sign your name on the other two, so you can get on your way.” The signature gatherers would then forge the person’s signature on the other two petitions.
3. The Fake Petitions Scheme: Signature gatherers would tell people about totally fake petitions, such as a “one-strike sex-offender initiative.” In reality they were signing petitions supporting eminent domain, judicial recall, and TABOR.
Higgins also told ThinkProgress that the “itinerant circulators” seem to have left Montana and gone on to other states and other ballot initiatives. It’s likely that we haven’t seen the end of their dirty tactics.
For more on efforts to fight TABOR in Montana, visit Not In Montana.