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Montana voters reminded to be wary with election season mailers
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Montana voters reminded to be wary with election season mailers

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Absentee Ballots

Barb Cox, right, helps Connie Ridgeway get her absentee ballot in 2016 at the Yellowstone County Elections Office.

It's the season of dodgy election and campaign mailers and a new letter showing up this month in Yellowstone County mailboxes has left some voters confused.  

The letter is from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit and nonpartisan Center for Voter Information and tells readers that, "according to our review of publicly available records, someone at this address may not be registered to vote."

The problem is that some residents who have received the letter are already registered to vote and the mailer left them wondering if they had been removed from the county's voter rolls without their knowledge. 

"We get calls about this stuff all the time," said Bret Rutherford, Yellowstone County election administrator. "It is campaigns and interest groups with bad data that confuses the voters."

He's sympathetic with the confused voters and encourages them to go online to the county's elections web page or to call his office to check that they're registered. (Although he asks voters to check online first before calling.)

The easiest way for county residents to check their voting status is to visit My Voter Page at app.mt.gov/voterinfo, which lists the registration and absentee status of state residents. The web page can be accessed through most county websites, votinginmontana.com, or sosmt.gov.

For voters unable to use the online app or reach the website on their computer, they can call their county elections office. In Yellowstone County voters can call the elections office at 256-2740.

"If they call we just look them up and confirm if they need to update anything with us," he said. "We also get many (voter registration forms) mailed in that end up being duplicates of what is already on file."

Groups that send out these mailers telling already-registered voters to register or to request a mail-in ballot in an all-mail election are almost always acting on out-of-date or faulty information, Rutherford said. 

"A lot of them pay for data sets that are not from the counties or the Secretary of State, so they tend to be inaccurate or incomplete," Rutherford said. 

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Steve Tobin lives on Avenue F near Pioneer Park and was walking to his office in downtown Billings Tuesday morning when he saw what looked like a pile of trash at the base of a tree near the street.

"There was a torn up ballot," he said. "I didn't know what to do with it."

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