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Guest opinion: State's election administrators guard vote integrity
GUEST OPINION

Guest opinion: State's election administrators guard vote integrity

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Voting

Aaron Dunn votes for the first time at MetraPark on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

We serve voters by ensuring their qualifications are valid, their information is accurate, and that they have equitable, unobstructed access to voting.

We protect the integrity of the election by ensuring that every valid ballot that is timely received and legally cast is counted, and that the results are accounted for and validated through the canvass process. We are on guard against fraud, undue influence, and corruption from external forces that seek to politicize the electoral process in order to control the outcome.

We follow the laws, administrative rules, directives, and court rulings that dictate the conduct of elections, and we ensure that those who participate in the election do the same. We serve across 56 widespread counties that have numerous differences and countless similarities. Some are urban while others are very rural. Agriculture and ranching lifestyles dominate some communities while others create commerce through recreation, tourism, and other industries.

The members of the Montana Association of Clerk & Recorders and Election Administrators share these differences and similarities. Some counties hand count while most use various high-speed tabulators to compile the results of hundreds of thousands of ballots. We share a voter registration database that is maintained and secured by the Office of the Secretary of State.

Through collaboration, we build uniform policies and processes that can be dynamic enough to suit the conditions and circumstances of each individual county’s election.

Over time, Montana’s elections have evolved. This is due to the dynamic nature of the laws that allow for local control over the conduct of our elections. Our policies and processes are what allow for us to adapt to the conditions and circumstances of the election, such as a pandemic.

Federal and statewide elections are usually held by polling place with a no-excuse absentee option. The majority of Montana voters participate in these elections by receiving their ballot in the mail and returning it by mail or in-person to the election office or a polling place. Local elections that are conducted by mail are conducted in accordance with Montana’s mail ballot election laws, laws that have been on the books for decades.

The Montana Association of Clerk & Recorders and Election Administrators asked the Governor’s Office to provide a directive that allowed for greater local control of our elections so that each of the 56 counties in Montana could better determine how to conduct their election based on the conditions and circumstances of the pandemic in their area.

VotingInMontana.com Brought to you by Montana Election Administrators

The directive allows for a longer period of time for voters to register without the requirement of appearing in person at the election office. This allows for less exposure between voters and election workers, and streamlines the process of issuing ballots.

The directive also allows counties to conduct the election under Montana’s mail ballot election laws, as long as in-person voting is accessible through Election Day. This reduces the need for a large number of election judges, limits the number of required in-person interactions, and prevents counties from straining the public’s resources.

See your county’s voting options and helpful election information by reading www.votinginmontana.com election articles.

Working together, we find that voters tend to have similar questions and concerns. Uncertainty and skepticism are shared across the political spectrum. This is why we created www.votinginmontana.com — a nonpartisan election resource that is intended to dispel misinformation and alleviate voters of uncertainty or apprehension about the election process.

Election administrators across the state are here to help and encourage voters to reach out to their local election office with questions. The election administrators of Montana are committed to providing safe and secure elections. We value the transparency of the processes that we conduct on behalf of the voters. Our dedication to duty and high level of accountability are what have aided the successes in past elections and ensure effective and efficient elections in the future.

Elections will never be easy, but they will always be necessary in a democracy, and we remain resolute in our commitment to democracy.

Kody Farkell is Pondera County Election Administrator and president of the Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders and Election Administrators. This Op-Ed is endorsed by Montana's election administrators covering 56 counties.

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