Montana Republican officials plan to file an emergency appeal seeking to close the June primary elections to voters who aren’t registered party members, their attorney said Tuesday. The decision by the 10 GOP county central committees to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes after U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Monday denied their request for an order to close the upcoming GOP primaries, attorney Matthew Monforton said. Morris ruled that the Republican plaintiffs have too many unproven claims in their constitutional challenge to the state’s open primary system to decide the case without a trial. They have presented enough evidence to continue the case, but must have data supporting their claims that the system harms their freedom to associate with other party members and forces candidates to change their messages.
“These issues must be resolved at trial,” Morris said in his ruling.
A century old Montana law allows voters to fill out either a Republican or a Democratic ballot when voting in primary elections. Voters aren’t required to declare a party preference to participate.