Background: Montana’s election process has been in the news on several fronts this year. During the 2017 Legislature, there was legislation introduced to use a mail-in ballot for the special election to fill Montana’s congressional seat. Subsequently, Missoula’s election office was the focus of allegations of fraud by the Montana Secretary of State. And, while not yet in the news, some of Montana’s voting equipment is aging and needs to be replaced with up-to-date equipment that is safe and secure.
Proposed Report: The Montana League of Women Voters, in conjunction with several local Leagues and with the cooperation of the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders, research and report on Montana’s voting process and equipment:
Report in layman’s terms Montana law and how elections work currently:
- mail-in elections
- polling elections with absentee ballots
Report on the current status of the voting process and equipment in Montana through review of state law and survey of elections offices:
- Trace flow of ballot from how person receives it, all of the steps in processing, how many hands touch it, to being counted, for both mail-in elections and polling elections with absentee ballots.
- What factors disqualify ballot; what steps are taken to verify ballots; any other information about handling of ballots and provisional ballots
- Equipment used to count ballots, age and security of equipment (coordinate with Secretary of State, State Administration and Veteran Affairs interim legislative committee, and Association of Clerks and Recorders)
- How access to voting roles is handled, what information about voters is released
Compile Best Practices for the current system
Present research on best practices for elections elsewhere in the country
Identify changes that would benefit elections in the future.
Timeline for the report: survey would be conducted in the early spring of 2018, selected observation of the 2018 primary election in June, review preliminary findings with a report subcommittee of the Association, and finish the report by fall of 2018 to be released in mid-November time for the 2019 legislature.