The League of Women Voters is committed to empowering as many citizens as we can to participate in our democracy by voting, and to providing accurate information on how to make sure your vote is counted.
Three lawsuit decisions in late September clarified the process for Montana’s November general election.
• The Montana Supreme Court affirmed existing law that ballots have to be received by elections offices by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3; postmarked ballots will not count.
• The Montana Supreme Court also determined that the Ballot Interference Protection Act of 2018 is unconstitutional. It is again OK for someone to drop off your ballot for you, without having to fill out a form, be limited to six ballots or risk a $500 fine.
• Federal District Court Judge Dana Christensen confirmed that Montana’s mail ballot election option is both legal as an emergency response to the pandemic, and secure from voter fraud.
Judge Christensen stated in his decision: “Central to some of the Plaintiffs’ claims is the contention that the upcoming election, both nationally and in Montana, will fall prey to widespread voter fraud. The evidence suggests, however, that this allegation, specifically in Montana, is a fiction …. When pressed during the hearing in this matter, the Plaintiffs were compelled to concede that they cannot point to a single instance of voter fraud in Montana in any election during the last 20 years” (Trump v. Bullock).
Montana has been running mail ballot elections capably for years. In 2018 over 70% of Montanans voted using a mailed ballot. City, county and school board elections are frequently mail ballot elections.
Here are the League’s recommendations for voting in counties holding mail ballot elections:
• Make a plan for voting.
• Check if your voter status is “active” on My Voter Page https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/ of the Secretary of State’s website.
• Follow the instructions that come with your ballot. Every mail ballot must be returned in the envelopes provided to ensure your vote is secret and will be counted, whether returned by mail or in a dropbox.
• For counties with mail ballot elections, no postage is needed to mail your ballot back. If you haven't mailed it already, you should plan to deliver your ballot in person. Call your county elections office for drop-box locations. You can check the My Voter Page to track when your elections office receives and accepts your ballot.
• You can register and vote in person by going to your county election office during regular business hours and until 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. You will have to follow COVID-19 safety precautions and bring identification.
• Call your county elections office with any questions. They will have accurate, up-to-date information on making your vote count.
Election results are not finalized until all election processes are complete. These election processes are not new; they have been required by law for some time. Provisional and overseas ballots are not counted until Nov. 9. Candidates can ask for recounts. County canvassing boards audit the vote tallies for all voted and un-voted ballots and verify the accuracy of ballot counting machines after the election. The canvassing boards have to complete their audits before the secretary of state can certify election results. All of these take time and indicate that the election process is working.
Be patient. By law, final results for Montana’s Nov. 3, election may not be available until Nov. 30, or later.
Nancy Leifer is president of the League of Women Voters Montana. Nancy Maxson is co-president of the League of Women Voters Missoula.
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