All eyes will be on Montana’s elections this year, as the state is home to one of the most closely watched US Senate and Governor races in the country.
Already, accusations are flying over absentee ballots in Montana. This, after an entire precinct of voters in Broadwater County were sent incorrect absentee ballots. Broadwater County Election Administrator Rhonda Nelson said she hopes to get the new ballots in the mail by Friday, and said she will work over the weekend to get the new ballots out to voters.
One of four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Secretary of State first brought the incorrect ballots to light Wednesday.
Scott Aspenlieder had this to say in a prepared statement:
“On top of being sent invalid ballots, voters in Broadwater County’s precinct 11 are now forced to endure the confusion of having a second ballot mailed to their homes,” said Aspenlieder. “Then in Yellowstone County, we find out some voters were only sent one party’s Primary ballot, eliminating their right to choose the candidates they’d like to support. This failure of leadership is simply unacceptable, and Montanans deserve better. I call on our Secretary of State to begin a comprehensive audit of all of the 2012 absentee ballots to identify every single error, and immediately take steps to fix this process so a Montanan’s right to vote is never threatened again.”
Terri Knapp sent out this statement from Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch:
“You know, for someone who claims to be an outsider, Scott Aspenlieder is acting like a typical politician. He is fabricating a crisis in order to further his campaign. There is nothing wrong with the absentee ballot process in Montana, and there is no need to spend taxpayer money on Scott’s last minute political gimmick. As with any elections issue, I have asked Broadwater and Yellowstone county election administrators to provide me with information on what may have occurred locally in each county.
A record number of Montanans are voting by absentee ballot this year because they know the system is safe, secure and accurate. Absentee ballots increase voter turnout in elections, which is good for Montana and good for Democracy.”
Rhonda Nelson, Election Administrator for Broadwater County, says there was an error in printing in precinct 11. She added, “It was not a secretary of state issue, it was a printing issue…Somehow that changed at our printer. There’s two races on there that should not have been there.”
Nelson added that the ballots will be re-printed and the ballot coding for the machines counting the votes will be corrected to reflect the error. She says something happened during the printing process at ES&S (Election Systems & Software) to print the wrong ballot.
Despite the printing error, Aspenlieder’s campaign says ultimately the Secretary of State is tasked with making sure the correct ballot goes out to voters.
“These errors point to a systemic problem in Linda McCulloch’s mail balloting process,” said Aspenlieder. “As Montana’s chief elections officer, the buck stops with Linda McCulloch. The bottom line is she’s failed Montana.”
As of 3:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, the incorrect ballot was still available on the Secretary of State’s “My Voter” website. (Photo of Precinct 11 Republican ballot from SOS website is pictured below)