Audit shows Montana primary election was accurate and secure
The Montana Secretary of State’s office says a post-election audit shows the June primary was secure and accurate.
The audit consisted of 40 counties recounting several competitive races in a few precincts each to check the accuracy of the results produced by ballot tabulators on Election Day.
Stuart Fuller, the Secretary of State’s elections and voter services manager, gave state lawmakers a rundown Thursday.
“Nobody in the post-election audit reported any unexplainable difference greater than five votes," he said.
Fuller says six counties recorded a difference between what tabulators calculated and what the audit produced, but the differences were negligible.
Eleven counties were exempt from the audit because they already hand count ballots, and five other counties were exempt after performing recounts in tight races.
Jeff Mangan, commissioner of political practices for Montana, said highlighting the audit results is important to combat disinformation swirling around unsupported claims of widespread election fraud.
“You just received a presentation of why Montanans can feel confident about Montana’s elections – that they are secure, safe and fair,” he said.
Mangan suggested lawmakers consider a proposal next legislative session aimed at broadening who the law protects from intimidation and violence at polling places. He said he sees an increased need for protection of election workers in the current political environment.
Ballot signature law ruled unconstitutional
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that part of a 2007 Montana law prohibiting non-Montana residents from collecting signatures for ballot measures was unconstitutional.
Christina Barsky teaches public administration and policy at the University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law and says the overturning the restriction could lower costs for policy groups looking to bring issues to voters.
“Now, you don’t have to say, 'We’ll have to find the workforce in Montana; it has to be Montana residents,'" Barsky said. "We still have to travel to those places, but when you have people you can pay to do that, it might be different."
Barsky says the decision placed Montana with a majority of states that allow non-residents to collect signatures for ballot issues.
The court upheld a portion of the law that prohibits paying ballot signature collectors on a per-signature basis. Barsky says just six other states have similar bans.
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