Guest opinion: Audits show voter fraud nonexistent in Montana

2012-09-09T00:05:00Z Guest opinion: Audits show voter fraud nonexistent in MontanaBy LINDA McCULLOCH The Billings Gazette
September 09, 2012 12:05 am  • 

Voting is the essence of our Democracy. It is a constitutional right that should never be denied to eligible Montanans, or infringed upon for political gain.

As your secretary of state, it is my duty to ensure the integrity of Montana’s elections by maintaining a system that is fair, honest, open, accurate and secure. For nearly four years, I have upheld my duty to protect your right to vote by pushing back every effort that would have made it more difficult to cast a ballot in Montana.

I have repeatedly opposed attempts to place harsh restrictions on voter registration and limit access to absentee ballots. These efforts to change election law are nothing more than a deliberate attempt to deny eligible Montanans their right to vote.

Nearly 46,000 Montanans have used late voter registration to vote in a statewide election; 20,000 have registered and voted on Election Day. I will continue to fight to keep late voter registration open in Montana. It is a good law that guarantees hardworking Montanans every opportunity to cast a ballot.

As chief elections officer, I value equality and full participation in the elections process. Absentee ballots are a secure and accessible voting option. A record 61 percent of votes were cast by absentee ballot in the primary, and I expect that number to rise in November. Absentee voting also guarantees Montana’s active military citizens have access to state elections. I launched the Electronic Absentee System (EAS) in 2010 to allow absent military and overseas electors to seamlessly apply for, receive and mark a statewide ballot. We upgraded the system earlier this year, so that our active military citizens can more easily vote their ballot and get back to the important job they do for our country.

The integrity of Montana’s elections relies on voters’ confidence and the ability for everyone to cast a ballot. Those who cry wolf about the security of elections are deliberately trying to mislead voters into supporting the very laws that will deny eligible Montanans their right to vote.

I implemented the Fair Elections Center early in my term so that every Montanan could easily report any potential state election law violation. Every allegation is documented, reviewed, and if warranted, passed on to the appropriate authorities.

The results are overwhelmingly clear. Voter fraud — votes knowingly cast by ineligible individuals — does not exist in Montana. Those who use the same anecdotal stories while providing no facts or proof are deflecting resources that should be used to find real solutions to real problems.

I’m proud to have been part of the effort to pass the Post-Election Audit Act. The act verifies the accuracy of Montana’s vote-tabulating equipment by requiring a hand count of a random selection of precincts and races. Since its implementation, the post-election audit has reinforced that Montana’s elections are fair and honest — and that the vote-tabulating equipment used by counties is accurate and secure.

The AutoMARK voting machines — which are designed to assist voters with visual, mobility, and other impairments — are also routinely tested for accuracy. I work with Montana’s 56 county election offices to ensure that every polling place is fully accessible and equipped with an AutoMARK so that no voter is disenfranchised on Election Day.

It has been a privilege to serve as Montana’s first woman secretary of state. With help from Montana’s 56 county election offices, our state continues to have fair, honest, and accurate elections that are secure, accessible and transparent. I look forward to continuing to ensure the integrity of Montana’s elections by protecting the right for every eligible citizen to cast a ballot.

Democrat Linda McCulloch is seeking re-election to a second, four-year term as Montana secretary of state.

 

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