Marsy’s Law for Montana to turn in over 81,000 signatures


February 11, 2016 

CONTACT: Chuck Denowh: 239-5952

[email protected]


Marsy’s Law for Montana to turn in over 81,000 signatures

Ballot initiative seeks to establish Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights in Montana Constitution

(Helena, Mont.)— Marsy’s Law for Montana, a ballot initiative to establish a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights in the Montana Constitution, believes it has exceeded the required number of signatures to qualify for the November General Election ballot. The campaign will turn in 81,060 signatures to county election offices in the coming days. 

“We were all surprised at how quickly we were able to gather as many signatures as we did, in just about three months,” said Marsy’s Law for Montana State Director Chuck Denowh. “We found that Montana voters are very receptive to this issue and eager to sign on to help get us on the ballot.” 

To qualify, a Constitutional initiative requires valid signatures from 48,349 registered Montana voters, which is 10 percent of the number of votes cast for governor in the most recent election. In addition, the measure must also have signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters from 40 legislative districts.

Marsy’s Law for Montana will turn in over 81,000 signatures and estimates that over 55,000 of those will be counted as valid. The lower number accounts for signatures that will not be counted because they are duplicates, are illegible, or were from individual not registered to vote. The campaign also estimates that they have exceeded the 10 percent threshold in fifty legislative districts, ten more than required. The signatures will be turned in to county election offices around the state over the next several days.

Marsy’s Law would enumerate certain Constitutional rights for victims of crime in Montana. Examples include the right to be notified of proceedings in the victim’s case, the right to appear and be heard at those proceedings, and the victim’s right to be notified of any changes in an offender’s custodial status.

“Marsy’s Law is designed to ensure that victims feel like they’re part of the criminal justice process, and that they’re treated with dignity and respect,” said Derek VanLuchene, a former police officer and founder of Ryan United, a Helena-based nonprofit that has trained law enforcement in all 50 states on managing child sexual assault and abduction cases.  “Law enforcement and prosecutors in Montana already do a great job helping crime victims, but with Marsy’s Law we’ll ensure that all victims in our state get the treatment they deserve each and every time.” 

“It’s unfortunate, but as time goes on, victims of crime tend to be forgotten,” said State Rep. Vince Ricci (R-Billings). “Helping victims of crime should is a top priority for our government and it only makes sense that Montana should join the majority of states that provide Constitutional protections for the rights of those victims.”

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsy Nicholas, who was a California college student stalked and murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after her death, Marsy’s murderer confronted her mother and brother in a grocery store—they had no idea he’d been let out of jail.

The traumatic experience with Marsy’s murder led her brother, Henry Nicholas, to found the national group Marsy’s Law for All, which is dedicated to helping crime victims. Marsy’s Law for all has already passed Constitutional amendments in two state and is working in several states this year. Montana is one of just eighteen states that does not provide Constitutional protections for victims of crime.