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.
… The fissures began during the legislative session when Stapleton came out against conducting the May 25 special congressional election by mail as requested by elections clerks who were concerned about the cost to open polling places.
But the rift has widened as Stapleton has focused on voter fraud amid President Donald Trump’s launch of an advisory commission looking into the integrity of the country’s voting systems. Trump has asserted, without evidence, that widespread fraud took place in the November election.