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Election news from Yellowstone Public Radio and its partners to help you make an informed decision at the polls.

Montana election workers take on the massive task of prepping mail ballots

Jawayne Moody, a Missoula County election assistant, prepares ballots to be mailed out for the 2022 midterm elections.
Edward O'Brien
/
Montana Public Radio
Jawayne Moody, a Missoula County election assistant, prepares ballots to be mailed out for the 2022 midterm elections.

Absentee ballots for November’s midterm election will be mailed to eligible Montana voters starting Friday, October 14. Preparing those ballots for distribution is a massive undertaking.
A recent election office open house in Missoula provided a first-hand look at what it takes to get those ballots to your mailbox.

“I stamp the ballots and tear off the stubs and then pass them with an envelope to her. And she stuffs the envelope,” said Doris Walther.

Walther is one of 34 election assistants prepping nearly 60,000 mail-in ballots the postal service will deliver to eligible voters late this week.

“And we have been preparing about 20,000 ballots a day to go out in the mail,” said Missoula County Election Administrator Bradley Seaman.

“As we go through this process every ballot has to be stamped, official ballot stub removed and inserted in there and then they double check to make sure ‘Can you see it in the window?’ ‘Will it get to the voter?’” said Seaman.

It takes precision, teamwork, and plenty of oversight to prepare the ballot packets for mailing.

The 17 teams of two working at Missoula’s Election Center are not only assembling those packets, but checking and double checking each other's work. An on-site coordinator oversees the entire operation. Cameras lining the room add yet another layer of security.

Election Assistant Jawayne Moody recommends anyone contemplating running for office, “Should spend some time going through the whole process in the election office just to see all the checks and balances and how it would be very difficult to interfere with the election results.”

Election officials in other states are increasingly concerned that groups hope to undermine election results by installing supporters as poll workers.

Missoula Election Administrator Bradley Seaman says multiple layers of election security measures in Montana drastically minimizes the chances something like that could happen here.

“Working in teams of three at a polling place help prevent those malicious actions. So we have to see an I.D., we have to track it in that poll book and work with that ballot judge. And then at the end of that polling place, we go through and confirm every ballot issued to the number of ballots on hand to make sure that matched. So simply the election law practices really prevent that malicious action from taking place.”

Election Assistant Doris Walther has helped with Missoula County elections since 2002. She has little patience for those who question local election integrity.

“I was in the Navy. I have a foul mouth. I talk like a sailor. I would just tell them they needn’t worry about that. We’re doing a good job. We’re conscientious about it,” said Walther

 Missoula county election assistant Doris Walther preps mail ballots for the 2022 midterm elections.
Edward O'Brien
Missoula county election assistant Doris Walther preps mail ballots for the 2022 midterm elections.

Election Administrator Bradley Seaman hopes public open houses like the one held this week in Missoula helps provide transparency and reassures the voting public.

The Montana Supreme Court last month meanwhile, reinstated a block on a state law eliminating same day voter registration.

Seaman urges those who plan on registering for the November 8 election to do so sooner than later. He says voters who register anytime between now and Election Day can expect that process to take about two minutes. That same process on election day itself could take upwards of two hours.

If you're unsure about your voter registration status or local polling place, visit https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/.

Have questions about voting in Montana? We're here to help.

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Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.