Montana ballot measure urging equal number of men, women in Legislature passes first test

A ballot measure in Montana that would require an equal number of men and women to serve in the state Legislature is a step closer to getting on the November ballot.

A petition for the measure was approved last Tuesday by the Montana secretary of state's office. The measure would force the Montana Legislature to reconstruct its gender makeup in a 50/50 split. Currently, women now hold 41 of the 150 seats in the Legislature.

The measure is still several steps away from ever becoming law. But even if it did, the text of the initiative doesn't exactly make clear how such a drastic overhaul of the Legislature would be carried out. The text says the Legislature "shall be composed of fifty percent men and fifty percent women," and that the transition would not take effect until "on or before the second general legislative election held after the next redistricting."

And that's if the measure even gets on the ballot, and is approved. For the measure to be on the November ballot, the petition’s sponsor John Marshall and supporters must gather signatures from 10 percent of the total number of qualified voters in Montana, including 10 percent of the voters in each of the 40 legislative house districts.

In total, that comes out to 48,349 signatures due by June 20 if Montana residents wish to vote on the measure in November.