Montana Free Press

Election 2024 Guide

Montana's candidates for state and federal office.

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Last update: Jul 9, 2024
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Austin Knudsen
Montana Republican candidate
for Attorney General

Austin Knudsen

Incumbent attorney general

Active candidates for Attorney General

General election nominees were selected via the June 4, 2024, primary election.

Republican

Democrat

Knudsen, 43 as of Election Day, says he’s spent his first term increasing crime fighting resources to state and local law enforcement agencies and fighting federal policies that “run roughshod over our rights.”

The Republican, a former speaker of the State House and Roosevelt County Attorney, was elected attorney general in 2020, the same year voters gave Republicans control of both the Legislature and governor’s office for the first time since the mid-2000s. He has since been most visible as the face of Republican state government in court, mounting defenses to constitutional challenges against dozens of Republican-backed laws and joining national lawsuits against Biden Administration policies — more than 40, by his count.

“I'm running for reelection so that I can continue to fight drugs and crime in our communities, fight the disastrous Biden agenda that has harmed Montanans, and fight for Montanans’ freedoms and liberties,” he said.

Knudsen currently faces a complaint from Montana’s attorney ethics organization due to his office's defiance of a court order during a 2021 separation of powers fight. Knudsen’s office has branded the complaint a campaign season-motivated “political stunt” designed to persecute a difference in political opinion.

This biography is based on materials provided to MTFP by Knudsen’s campaign and previous MTFP reporting.

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ON THE ISSUES

Answers here were solicited from candidates via a written questionnaire conducted by MTFP in April 2024. Responses were limited to 1,000 characters and edited lightly for punctuation and spelling. Candidates were asked to focus on the positives their service would bring the state instead of making rhetorical attacks on their opponents. Responses have not been exhaustively fact-checked.

The attorney general is Montana’s chief law enforcement officer. What do you see as the state’s top law enforcement issue?
Austin Knudsen:

My top priority is the safety of our communities. We've strengthened our laws and directed more resources to those fighting on the front line. 100% of the illicit fentanyl and methamphetamine coming to Montana is manufactured by Mexican cartels and coming across the southern border. This is why I've taken aggressive and proactive legal action against the Biden policies that have left our border unprotected. Locally, we’ve dedicated more resources than ever before to local and state law enforcement, including more narcotics agents, increased participation and leadership in drug task forces, and securing 24 drug detecting K9s for agencies across the state. It's working — more than a half-million dosage units of fentanyl were taken off our streets just last year. I will continue to support law enforcement in the fight to disrupt trafficking networks, keep illegal drugs out of our communities, and aggressively target cartel affiliates and drug dealers who bring this poison into Montana

Compare to competing candidates
Montana attorneys general have historically worked with attorneys general from other states to advance multi-state litigation against parties such as federal officials, pharmaceutical companies and social media companies. What if any national issues would you focus the Montana Department of Justice’s litigation resources on?
Austin Knudsen:

I’ve joined with my colleagues from around the country in filing more than 40 lawsuits against the federal government relating to the border, gun rights, energy development, economic policies and more. The Biden administration has abdicated its duty to secure the border, allowing drugs to pour into our country, making the fight against crime in Montana more difficult. A state like Montana can’t afford to have an attorney general who will let the federal government run roughshod over our rights.

I’ve worked with other state AGs — and our own — to hold opioid manufacturers and companies in the prescription opioid distribution network accountable for their roles in the opioid epidemic, securing tens of millions of dollars for state and local governments to use for evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery initiatives.

I’ll continue to aggressively defend Montanans’ rights and our state’s interests during my second term as attorney general.

Compare to competing candidates
The attorney general has the job of defending against lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of laws passed by the state Legislature, which leaders from both major parties say will likely remain in Republican control following this year’s election cycle. How do you see yourself working with legislators as elements of the agenda they pass face judicial review?
Austin Knudsen:

Defending state laws has become an increasingly large part of the litigation work the Department of Justice undertakes as special interest groups seek to overturn the laws duly passed by the state Legislature. The attorney general’s job is to enforce and defend the laws of our state — period. If someone won’t commit to doing the job, they shouldn’t be running for the position.

Compare to competing candidates

MTFP COVERAGE OF Knudsen

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Campaign finance information for non-federal candidates is publicly available through the state Campaign Electronic Reporting System maintained by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices. MTFP isn't presenting that data on this guide at the current time because the COPP system doesn't make it possible to easily export reliable campaign finance summary data for the races that office oversees.

Election outcomes

June 4 primary – Republican candidates
CandidateVotesPercentage
AUSTIN KNUDSEN146,74082.3%
LOGAN OLSON31,62717.7%
Count reported by Montana secretary of state as of Jun 10, 2024.

COMMON VOTING QUESTIONS

When are Montana’s 2024 elections?

Voters will pick which candidates advance to the November general election in the June primary, which is scheduled for Tuesday, June 4. Voters will pick the candidates who will ultimately fill each office on the ballot in the November election, which is set for Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Who runs Montana’s elections?

Montana elections are administered at the county level. The process is overseen by county clerks and election administrators, who help to train and monitor the volunteer election judges that staff the polls. Ballots are typically processed and counted at central county locations, with the results reported to the Montana secretary of state’s office via a statewide software system called ElectMT.

Once polls close, the secretary of state’s office provides results through its website. The state-level office also provides guidance to local election administrators to ensure compliance with state election laws. Additionally, enforcing compliance with some laws governing political campaigns, particularly those involving campaign finance, falls to a separate office known as the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Do I need to be registered in order to vote?

Yes. If you’re unsure about your registration status, you can check it through the Montana secretary of state's My Voter Page. You can register to vote by stopping by your county election office any time during regular business hours to pick up an application. After you’ve filled it out, you’ll need to get it back to your county election office by mail or in person (the latter option is strongly recommended close to Election Day to ensure your application is received in time). If you do present your application in person, you’ll have to provide a photo ID or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you happen to be applying for a Montana driver’s license or identification card before the election, you can register to vote at the same time.

Can I register to vote on Election Day?

Yes. The state Legislature has sought to enact an earlier registration deadline, but under a March 2024 ruling by the Montana Supreme Court, same-day voter registration remains legal in Montana. Residents can register to vote or update their voter registration at their county’s election office prior to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Does Montana have voter ID requirements?

Yes, you will be required to present identification when voting at the polls. However, under the Montana Supreme Court’s March ruling, changes made to those requirements by the 2021 Legislature remain blocked. The current forms of identification voters can use at the polls are a current Montana driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, tribal or military photo ID, a U.S. passport or a student ID. If you don’t have a photo ID, you can use a utility bill, a bank statement, a voter confirmation card or any other government document that shows your name and address.

Are there situations where I wouldn't be eligible to vote?

According to state law, you can't vote if you'll be under age 18 on Election Day, are not a U.S. citizen, or have lived in Montana less than 30 days. Convicted felons who are currently incarcerated in a penal facility and people whom judges have ruled to be of unsound mind are also ineligible to vote. Otherwise, you're good to go.

Can I vote online?

No, that’s not an option in Montana.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, you can sign up as an absentee voter by checking a box on your voter registration form. If you’re already registered to vote, you can fill out a separate form and submit it to your county election office.

If you’re registered as an absentee voter, a ballot should be mailed to you a few weeks in advance of each election day. You can make sure your address is current via the My Voter page. County election officials are slated to mail ballots to voters for the June 2024 primary election May 10.

You can return ballots by mail, or drop them off in person at your county’s election office. Either way, the election office must receive your ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to count it.

How do I vote in person?

If you plan to vote at the polls, just be sure you know where your polling location is and head there between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Election Day. You'll need to provide a photo ID and sign the precinct register, at which point you’ll get your ballot and be directed to a voting booth. If you have any technical questions or run into any problems, the election judges at your polling place should be able to help you.

I have a friend or family member who isn't able to drop off his or her mail-in ballot. Can I do it for them?

Yes, you can. The Montana Legislature did make some changes to ballot collection laws in 2021 related to paid ballot collection, those changes have also been blocked by the Montana Supreme Court.

Who should I vote for?

That’s your call, not ours. We hope the information we present on this guide is helpful as you make that decision for yourself, though.

About this project

This guide was produced by the Montana Free Press newsroom with production and web development by Eric Dietrich, editing by Brad Tyer and Nick Ehli and contributions from Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Mara Silvers, Alex Sakariassen, Amanda Eggert and Stephanie Farmer. Questionnaire responses for legislatiive candidates were collected with help from the Montana League of Women Voters, through the league's Vote 411 program. Contact Eric Dietrich with questions, corrections or suggestions at edietrich@montanafreepress.org.

Montana Free Press is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit, reader-supported news organization serving Montana. MTFP's donor base includes supporters from across Montana's political spectrum, including some Montanans who are candidates in this year's election. MTFP's major donors are listed here and a current list of other supporters is available here. MTFP's news judgments are made entirely independently from donor involvement.

This material is available for republication by other media outlets under Montana Free Press' standard distribution terms.