A district court judge has rejected a Republican-backed ballot initiative that aimed to help conservatives in Montana Supreme Court elections.

The GOP-controlled Legislature last year sent the initiative directly to the primary election on June 5. It would establish regional districts that would each elect one justice to the Supreme Court.

The court's six justices and one chief justice are now elected in statewide elections.

Judge James Reynolds says the initiative would change the Montana Constitution by adding new candidate requirements for Supreme Court justices.

He says the provision requiring judicial candidates to live inside the proposed regional districts is unconstitutional.

Both sides say they expect an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court on the matter.

The Legislature sent four initiatives to the 2012 ballot. Two face court challenges.