Montana

Articles about voting issues in Montana.

Montana: State puts $1.3M toward updating county voting machines | Holly K. Michaels/Helena Independent Record

The Montana Secretary of State’s office announced Tuesday more than $1.3 million in money for counties to update their voting equipment. The money comes from a federal Help American Vote Act and is matched with county funds. Counties will be able to purchase new Express Vote voting equipment with the funding. “This is a big step in the right direction for counties to upgrade election technology that strengthens Montana’s election security ahead of 2020,” Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said in a press release announcing the funding. The new equipment is meant to ease voting access for people with disabilities. However, at a meeting of the State Administrative and Veterans Affairs hearing Tuesday, Beth Brenneman, attorney for Disability Rights Montana, said that because of how the Express Vote machines function, they may present some issues for voters who are blind. Joel Peden, advocacy coordinator with the Montana Independent Living Project, voiced more concerns to the interim committee about access to voting for those with disabilities. He said some machines, either new or old, don’t provide enough privacy for voters to feel comfortable their vote is secret.

Full Article: Montana puts $1.3M toward updating county voting machines | 406 Politics | helenair.com.

Montana: ExpressVote Voting Machines Could Debut In Montana This November | MTPR

The Montana Secretary of State’s office plans to sign-off on a new touchscreen voting system designed for voters with disabilities that could be used at county polling sites as early as this November. The ExpressVote system resembles a touchscreen desktop computer or ATM. Voters insert a ballot, scroll through pages of candidates or initiatives and make their picks, and then hit print. The system includes audio, visual, and other aids designed to help individuals with disabilities vote. A separate machine does the vote counting. The Secretary of State’s Office and system developer ES&S ran demonstrations of the device Monday in the state Capitol ahead of an official certification event scheduled Tuesday. Staff with the Secretary’s office say the ExpressVote system is replacing an outdated device from the early 2000s that was also designed for people with disabilities. The state is using $750,000 of a $3 million federal grant to buy the equipment, with counties chipping in matching funds if they want to take part in the upgrade.

Full Article: Touchscreen Voting Machines Could Debut In Montana This November | MTPR.

Montana: Stapleton nixes upgrade to voter registration system | The Fulcrum

The modernization of Montana’s voter registration system won’t happen in time for next year’s elections, because the state’s top election administrator has concluded the new software cannot be installed and its security assured in time. The decision was made by Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who has something of a vested interest in his decision. He’s a leading GOP candidate for the state’s singular and reliably Republican seat in the House of Representatives in 2020. But Stapleton was pressed to make the decision by the association of the state’s county clerks, who said the system in place for 15 years was good enough for one more election. “It would seem more reasonable to begin this immense change-over outside of a presidential cycle, which could be one of the biggest in our lifetimes,” they told the secretary of state. “The current project development timeline is simply too aggressive and stands to put the election process in Montana at risk.”

Full Article: Montana's Stapleton nixes upgrade to voter registration system - The Fulcrum.

Montana: After elections administrators voice concern, new voter system won’t roll out until 2021 | Holly K. Michels/The Missoulian

The secretary of state is backing away from plans to implement a new election system for Montana before 2020 after elections administrators around the state raised concerns about the aggressive timeline. In a July 24 letter to the head of the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton wrote that “it does not appear to me that we will be able to implement a new voter registration system this year.” County elections administrators had previously told Stapleton they had “grave concerns” over a plan to replace the existing MontanaVotes system with a new ElectMT system before 2020, as reported by the Montana Free Press. The 2020 elections are expected to see the highest voter turnout in Montana history — it’s a presidential election year, with two federal offices and all the statewide elected officials up for election, plus other state-level, legislative and local races, and ballot initiatives. “The whole association is extremely excited with the decision to wait and not roll it out in the 2020 election,” said Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders President Stephanie Verhasselt, who is the Richland County clerk and recorder. “We do believe when the new system comes out, once we get it working and everyone trained, I think it will have a lot of features we like.”

Full Article: After elections administrators voice concern, new voter system won't roll out until 2021 | 406 Politics | missoulian.com.

Montana: Secretary of State Corey Stapleton plans to implement new election software in 2020. Election officials worry that’s too fast. | Alex Sakariassen/Montana Free Press

County elections officials are expressing “grave concerns” over Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s plan to implement a new statewide election system in time for the 2020 elections. Stapleton’s plan calls for Montana counties to begin transitioning from the state’s decade-old Montana Votes election system to a new suite of election software as early as January. Stapleton’s office inked an exclusive $2 million contract with South Dakota-based information technology company BPro on April 30. Missoula County Chief Administrative Officer Vickie Zeier said the secretary’s staff in early June assured county officials that a final determination on the state’s readiness for the transition will not be made until December.  However, emails acquired through a public-records request show Stapleton’s office set its sights on implementing the new software in time for the 2020 elections months ago. In a June 20 letter to Stapleton, the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders (MACR) called that timeline “very worrisome,” adding, “our suggested implementation goal would be 2021.”

Full Article: Montana Secretary of State's plan worries elections officials | Montana Free Press.

Montana: Bill would again attempt to regulate accuracy of election materials | Helena Independent Record

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.

Full Article: Bill would again attempt to regulate accuracy of election materials | 406 Politics | helenair.com.

Montana: Secretary of State plans to replace voter registration system | Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton plans to replace the state’s voter registration system and pay for improvements to its election cyber security programs with a $3 million federal grant. The money is part of $380 million in grants President Donald Trump budgeted for election security across the nation against a backdrop of threats from Russia and others. Montana is putting up $150,000 as a 5 percent match for the grant. Stapleton outlined the plan in a letter to members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a group that administers the grants, sent out Wednesday. The state received the money, but the program required Stapleton provide details on how it would be spent.

Full Article: Secretary of State plans to replace voter registration system | News | bozemandailychronicle.com.

Montana: Democrats Take Secretary of State to Court over Green Party Votes | KGVO

The Montana Democratic Party, assisted by a prestigious international law firm, is taking Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to court over approving signatures that allowed the Green Party to qualify for the general election. Green Party spokesperson Danielle Breck said the Montana Democrats have a date in Helena District Court on Tuesday afternoon. “The Montana Democratic Party, along with a couple of individuals, have filed suit against the Secretary of State saying that 180 of the more than 7,300 signatures that he validated of the more than 10,000 we turned in, are not valid, and therefore we should be removed from the ballot,” said Breck. “Tomorrow (Tuesday) there is a hearing to show cause and the Democrats have to show cause to move forward with the case.”

Full Article: Democrats Take Secretary of State to Court over Green Party Votes.

Montana: Political watchdog says Democratic Party violated campaign finance laws | Associated Press

The Montana Democratic Party failed to identify the issues and candidates that benefited from its spending of about $375,000 on the 2016 general election, the state’s top election watchdog found. Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan also found that the party failed to include Supreme Court candidate Dirk Sandefur on a list of candidates it was supporting. He referred the case to the Lewis and Clark County attorney for potential prosecution, but his Dec. 5 finding said such cases are usually settled with a civil fine.

Full Article: Montana political watchdog says Democratic Party violated campaign finance laws | Montana | helenair.com.

Montana: At Secretary of State’s behest, county elections delves into ballot rejection process | The Missoulian

The May special election to find Montana’s new congressional representative just keeps coming back into play. Tuesday, Missoula County Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors told the County Commission about her office’s survey into their handling of rejected ballots. The survey was done at the request of Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who, according to Connors asked the same of each Montana county elections office. And if the local offices didn’t want to, his office would. Stapleton’s request for the surveys came after an email exchange between him and Connors that was made public after the commissioners decided to respond. In the emails, Stapleton accused Missoula County of not taking voter fraud seriously and asked “why 91 illegal signatures on mail ballots are once again going to be silently set aside on the shelf of indifference.”

Full Article: At Secretary of State's behest, county elections delves into ballot rejection process | Local | missoulian.com.

Montana: Stapleton Now Says No Evidence Of Voter Fraud | MTPR

Montana’s secretary of state said Tuesday that he’s looked into whether there was election fraud during this May’s special election and hasn’t seen any evidence showing a coordinated effort to cast mismatched, or illegal, signatures on ballots. Secretary of State Corey Stapleton raised the issue of potential voter fraud in August. At a meeting with state lawmakers, he said that just because it hasn’t happened in Montana before doesn’t mean it’s not happening now. But in a Tuesday afternoon phone conference with clerks, Stapleton said that after examining results from a survey of illegal ballots from the May 25 special election, he now believes Montana has a healthy election system that could use some improvement.

Full Article: Stapleton Now Says No Evidence Of Voter Fraud | MTPR.

Montana: Donors once again much more limited in contributions to Montana candidates | Associated Press

Montana’s limits on direct contributions to political campaigns are justified in trying to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption while still allowing candidates to raise enough money to run a campaign, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday. The decision overturned a ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell, who in May 2016 said the limits enacted by voters in 1994 restricted political speech. “This lawsuit … sought to open the floodgates of money in Montana elections by making it easier for out-of-state corporations to buy officeholders,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement. “I’m glad the federal courts upheld Montana’s limits on money in elections. “For a century in Montana, winning an election for state office has meant going door to door and meeting face to face with everyday voters: democracy at its best. Today, we’re one step closer to keeping it that way. Elections should be decided by ‘we the people’ — not by corporations, millionaires, or wealthy special interests buying more television ads,” he said.

Full Article: Donors once again much more limited in contributions to Montana candidates | Montana | helenair.com.

Montana: Secretary of state denies voter fraud claims | Great Falls Tribune

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said in a letter read by his chief of staff to a legislative committee Thursday that he never made any allegations of 360 cases of voter fraud in the May 25 special election and that media reports were incorrect. “I made no such statement,” Stapleton said in the Sept. 14 letter to Sen. Sue Malek, chair of the State Administration and Veterans Affairs Interim Committee. And he added he would “ask you to correct the public record to the extent that you can.” Malek had invited Stapleton to the meeting saying she wanted him to come and provide more information on the “360 cases of voter fraud” that he discussed at SAVA’s July 20 meeting.

Full Article: Secretary of state denies voter fraud claims.

Montana: Court upholds landmark campaign-finance verdict against Wittich | The Missoulian

The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a judgment against a former state lawmaker from Bozeman who was fined $68,000 for having been found to have accepted and failed to report illegal corporate contributions. The court’s ruling affirmed a Lewis and Clark County jury decision in April 2016 against former Republican Rep. Art Wittich of Bozeman. The civil case was brought against Wittich, then a state senator, by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, who at the time was Jonathan Motl. After a five-day trial, 10 of 12 jurors found that Wittich violated campaign finance laws during his 2010 state Senate campaign for District 35 by accepting nearly $20,000 in in-kind contributions from the National Right to Work Committee.

Full Article: Montana Supreme Court upholds lawmaker’s fine in dark money case | Government & Politics | missoulian.com.

Montana: Voter fraud allegations roil Montana elections officials | Associated Press

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s allegations of voter fraud in Montana has widened a rift with elections officers across the state, some of whom want the elections chief to dial back his rhetoric. As they prepare to meet for their annual convention Tuesday, elections officials are hoping to rebuild relations with Stapleton, whose combative style has left some put off. “We are hoping for better communications with the secretary of state, and I’m hopeful that will happen in the near future,” said Regina Plettenberg, the election administrator from Ravalli County and president of the Montana Association of Clerk & Recorders and Election Administrators. Tensions have been building for months amid turmoil within Stapleton’s administration. Stapleton has been without a communications director since May. Two weeks ago, Stapleton’s director of elections and voter services, Derek Oestreicher, abruptly departed after a falling out that neither side wants to discuss publicly. And on Monday, a former deputy chief of staff, Stephanie Hess, began working for the state Auditor’s office.

Full Article: Voter fraud allegations roil Montana elections officials | The Herald.

Montana: Stapleton’s call for voting changes worries election officials | Independent Record

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has called for more thorough reviews of rejected ballots to identify cases of voter fraud, sparking an email feud with Missoula County and frustrating other election officials from Republican and Democratic counties who see no evidence of a broken system. Stapleton, who took office in January, is the first Montana Secretary of State in memory to declare a crackdown on voter fraud as a priority. The Republican’s policy shift mirrors similar efforts cropping up in other states, where the GOP has secured a growing number of the top election posts, and as President Donald Trump has asserted – with no evidence to date – that he lost the popular election because of millions of illegal votes.

Full Article: Stapleton's call for voting changes worries election officials | Montana Politics | helenair.com.

Montana: Should early voters in Montana be able to change their vote? | Helena Independent Record

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton said Tuesday he’d oppose any effort to allow Montanans to change absentee ballot votes that are cast before Election Day. Most states, like Montana, do not allow early voters to change their minds. That became an issue last month when then-candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter a little over 24 hours before his election as Montana’s sole representative in the U.S. House. Reaction to the assault sparked questions by those who had already voted if they could change their ballots. By then 259,558 of the 383,301 who would cast a ballot had already voted, or nearly 68 percent. “I would be very much opposed to letting people change their vote,” Stapleton told a legislative interim committee Tuesday in response to a question about if he would support a change in the law. “I think it’s much better to wait until Election Day and (vote) once.”

Full Article: Should early voters in Montana be able to change their vote? | Montana Politics | helenair.com.

Montana: Most Montanans had voted before Gianforte incident with reporter | Bozeman Daily Chronicle

The majority of Gallatin County voters did not agree with the rest of the state’s decision Thursday to elect Republican candidate Greg Gianforte to the lone congressional seat, according to election results on the secretary of state’s website. Final results show the county was in favor of Cut Bank Democratic candidate Rob Quist, who earned a 14-point win in the Republican candidate’s backyard. Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks had 4 percent of the vote in Gallatin County. In total, Gallatin had 76,633 registered voters, according to the secretary of state’s website. Charlotte Mills, clerk and recorder for Gallatin County, said 35,491 absentee ballots were cast and a little more than 6,000 voters went to the polls.

Full Article: Most Montanans had voted before Gianforte incident with reporter | Politics | bozemandailychronicle.com.

Montana: Law doesn’t allow cast absentee ballots to be changed | Great Falls Tribune

In Montana, once a ballot is put into a ballot box or dropped in the mail, it’s too late for voter to change their minds. During the first couple of hours the poll was open Thursday morning at Montana ExpoPark in Cascade County, no one had requested to get their ballot back, Cascade County Clark and Recorder Rina Moore said. If people still have an absentee ballot that they received in the mail that they would like to change, they can bring it to a poll and a new ballot will be reissued, Moore said.  In Cascade County, 75 percent of registered voters, about 31,000 people, requested ballots for the May 25 special election of Montana’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives be mailed to them. Of those mailed ballots, 70 percent have already been returned.

Full Article: Montana law doesn't allow cast absentee ballots to be changed.

Montana: Special election comes with unusual schedule, polling place changes | KTVH

With less than a day remaining until polls open in Montana’s special congressional election, county officials are busy getting ready. “Sometimes I think of planning the election kind of like planning a wedding, where there’s months and months of preparation,” said Audrey McCue, Lewis and Clark County’s elections supervisor. “The day before the election we’re wrapping up all of those preparations, getting everything ready to go, and then on Election Day, it’s the big event, the main event.”

Full Article: Montana’s special election comes with unusual schedule, polling place changes | KTVH.com.