Missoula Rep. Dudik pushes bill to regulate political speech

A state legislator is trying to clarify what kind of information can go on the campaign flyers sure to fill mailboxes across Montana during the 2020 election cycle.

House Bill 139, introduced by Rep. Kimberly Dudik, a Democrat from Missoula, would require printed election material referencing another candidate’s voting record to provide specific bill numbers, the year of the vote and titles of bills or resolutions. References to another candidate’s statements would require the date and location the statement was made.

“This doesn’t allow lies anymore to be made or mischaracterizations,” Dudik said. “There’s been many of us in the Legislature who have been attacked by those either in a general or primary.” She also claimed the bill would “do away” with the ability of dark money to sway Montana’s elections. Dudik said the bill would also apply to online election materials.

It’s a common tactic to use a candidate’s past votes, sometimes taken out of context, to help sway the electorate. The Legislature has previously enacted requirements like those Dudik proposes, but they’ve been struck down in court over constitutional issues. Dudik’s bill was also flagged for First Amendment concerns by attorney reviewers for the Legislative Services Division.