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Corey Stapleton

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton during a court hearing on a ballot-access lawsuit by the Montana Green Party in Helena.

HELENA — A magistrate judge has denied Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton's request to throw out a ballot-access lawsuit by the Montana Green Party and its supporters.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Johnston rejected Stapleton's motion to dismiss and ordered a December bench trial in the case after a court hearing on Tuesday.

The Green Party alleges that Montana's qualification requirements for minor political parties are unconstitutionally burdensome.

The lawsuit was filed after a state judge last year removed the Green Party from the 2018 election ballot. More than double the required 5,000 voters signed a petition to put the party on the ballot, but the party fell short of gathering valid signatures from at least 38 state House Districts.

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Green Party officials are seeking to strike down Montana's minor party qualification requirements and place them on the ballot.

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