‘Safe and secure’: Election task force provides update after system review – Daily Montanan


Montana’s election practices were deemed “safe and secure” following a review by a task force comprised of representatives from organizations and stakeholders across the state.

“Our election administrators and the many volunteers who run this system are to be commended for their efforts in operating the system which is well put together,” said Rep. David Bedey, R-Hamilton, a member of the task force, during a meeting of state administration and veterans. Meeting of the Interim Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The group produced an 18-page document of frequently asked questions covering topics ranging from ballot security and voting equipment to how to register to vote. The document included details such as paper ballots are secret and voter tabulation machines are tested before the election and subject to random auditing, according to the FAQ.

As part of their work, the group also created a website with the FAQ information at https://votinginmontana.org/.

Bedey said suggested areas under election integrity for potential legislation include codifying that election tabulation machines are not allowed to connect to the internet. The machines currently don’t connect to the internet, and Bedey said that’s a rule in contracts from now on, but it would be a good idea to “reassure the public”.

“Montana’s vote-counting machines cannot be connected to the Internet as it stands,” Bedey said. “It is an absurd conspiracy to suggest otherwise.”

Another suggestion was to criminalize tampering with vote counting machines.

“Montana’s electoral system is both healthy and secure, and we must remain vigilant to keep it that way,” Bedey said.

There was a national and Montana surge in interest in election security after former President Donald Trump denied the 2020 election results, followed closely by the insurgency on Capitol Hill. the United States. Last week, Trump was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 commission.

Montana Director of Elections and Voter Services Stuart Fuller briefed the Interim SAVA Committee on how the state does ballot signature verification. Fuller said a voter’s primary signature is taken from their voter registration and can then be compared to signatures on petitions or mail-in ballots for verification.

Flathead County Clerk and Secretary and Director of the Elections Office, Monica Eisenzimer, said in her experience when ballots had to be discarded, many people were actually grateful.

“They didn’t know that we had actually checked them. They know the rule is that we’re supposed to verify them, but they haven’t realized that someone is actually verifying their signature,” Eisenzimer said.

She said people don’t realize the office can tell if a parent has signed a child’s ballot, and when they call people normally admit it or they never hear from them.

“So we know it works,” she said.

One notable person Eisenzimer remembers calling is former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and now candidate for Montana’s first congressional district, Ryan Zinke. She said that when he was elected to serve in Congress as the representative at large for the district of Montana, he changed his signature.

She said she was asked to change her signature when she was first elected to Congress because it was not legible and has remained the same ever since.

Fuller stated that not all signatures of the same person are identical and that there is a method to compare signatures, which involves:

  • If the capitals match
  • If the letters end the same
  • If the letter spacing is similar
  • The general appearance is similar
  • If the relationship with the signature line is similar

He also acknowledged that people go through life events that would impact signature consistency.

“Unfortunately people have strokes, and people like me break their arm and have trouble writing with maybe their right hand, and so their signature is going to change, that doesn’t mean they’re fraudulent or someone is trying to vote illegally,” Fuller said. “The training is to reject it and check it with the voter.”

Fuller said rejected mail-in ballots turn into provisional ballots, which are counted separately with additional review, after 3 p.m. on the Monday following Election Day.

He told the committee that residency for voting requires being a US citizen, over the age of 18 and having lived in the county for at least 30 days. If the voter is registered in another state, the voter notifies the office of the Secretary of State and the voter will send a Notice of Cancellation of their previous registration.

Fuller said his office receives cancellations from Montanans who move elsewhere. His office sends a notice to the elector to see if he has moved; if there is no response, they become inactive and if they do not vote in two federal elections, they are nullified, he explained.

Sen. Doug Kary, R-Billings, asked about same-day voter registration and whether it was possible to verify their information on the spot, to which Fuller replied that it would be “almost impossible.”

“So you’re taking the voter’s word that they sign this application on pain of fraud, as well as federal penalties, for voting twice in an election and people have been prosecuted for it,” said Fuller. “We try to make sure that the obstacles to voting are not significant and that we prevent fraud.”


Comments are closed.