The Montana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to keep the Libertarian candidate for secretary of state on November’s election ballots after the head of the state’s Republican Party tried to have the candidate declared ineligible. The justices, in a 5-1 decision, denied GOP Chairman Jeff Essmann’s request to remove Roger Roots from the ballot because Roots failed to file his required campaign finance disclosure paperwork. Roots is a long-shot candidate for the open seat against Republican Corey Stapleton and Democrat Monica Lindeen. He has neither raised nor spent any money in his campaign to replace outgoing Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.
Essmann argued that Roots is not eligible as a candidate because he failed to file his business disclosure statement and several campaign finance reports. Under Montana law, candidates who don’t file the documents must be removed from the ballot. Essmann had asked the court to order county election officials to stop printing ballots and remove Roots’ name.
Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl responded that Roots filed the documents, though some were late and one was lost in his office after Roots submitted it. Roots also said that he filed all the paperwork that was required of him.
Roots said that he believes Essmann wants him off the ballot because Roots would take votes away from Stapleton in the race. Essmann denied that he was trying to give Stapleton an advantage against Lindeen by striking Roots from the ballot.