HAMILTON – Like election administrators everywhere this election cycle, Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg has been fielding lots of questions about the potential for election fraud this year.
Just recently, one of Ravalli County’s commissioners asked if she had heard any reports of people stealing absentee ballots from mailboxes.
Plettenberg said no.
“We haven’t had any major issues with absentee ballots,” Plettenberg said. “I think if vast numbers of people had not received their absentee ballots by now, we would be getting a lot of calls. There are always a few where something happens, but it’s not like hundreds and hundreds of ballots have been stolen.”
So far, Ravalli County has mailed out a record 12,332 absentee ballots.
Most of the concerned calls about absentee ballots so far this year have come from those living out-of-state.
“It can take a little longer due to processing for the people living out-of-state to get their ballots,” Plettenberg said. “Local ballots haven’t been a concern. We’re not seeing anything beyond what’s normal.”
So far, Plettenberg hasn’t received any reports of anyone going door to door attempting to collect absentee ballots in Ravalli County, either.
“I heard about that happening in one other county,” she said. “I would caution people to only allow people they trust – a friend, family member or a loved one – to deliver their ballot. I would never give it to anyone who stopped by their door.”
While every election year there are always some people worried about fraud, Plettenberg said that seems to be the theme of this election cycle.
“There’s always that concern out there, but this election I would say it’s higher than most,” she said. “I would recommend that if people do see something that doesn’t look right, they should call me and document the date and time of what they see. It doesn’t do anyone any good just to post it on Facebook.
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“We do need specifics,” Plettenberg said. “Then we can actually investigate it. We are always out to protect the integrity of our election.”
If people are concerned about anything pertaining to the election, Plettenberg urges them to give her office a call at 406-375-6550.
People with absentee ballots should try to get those in the mail by next Tuesday, especially if they live outside the state.
“If people live locally, that’s more than enough time for it to get to us,” she said. “If they live out-of-state, they may need those extra days.”
The absentee ballots also can be hand delivered to the county election office up until the day of the election or to any of the polls on Election Day.
While it could theoretically be done, Plettenberg said it wouldn’t be easy to vote using someone else’s absentee ballot.
“We verify every signature,” she said. “Everyone’s voting card is scanned.”
People can track the progress of their absentee ballot by going to the state’s My Voter Page at myvoterpage.mt.gov.
“I know how hard all of our election officials are working to protect this election in the state,” Plettenberg said. “In Montana, we’re kind of lucky. We have a smaller population and it’s easier to keep an eye on it. And we still have paper ballots.”
“I do have a hard time believing that election officials in other states aren’t working just as hard as we are here,” she said.