Rather than try to match small print on a correction flyer with erroneous passages in the Voter Information Pamphlet, Montanans who want to read the two initiatives we are voting on should go to the secretary of state website: sosmt.gov.
Online, the text for Initiative 185 (tobacco tax and health care funding) and Initiative 186 (stricter mining regulation) is complete and accurate. Voters can select the voter guide that most folks will find easily readable or the large print version with even bigger type. Importantly, both online versions were updated Oct. 11 to correct omissions in the printed pamphlets previously mailed to voters.
Voters who take a look at the 9-by-12, white-and-black Voter Information Pamphlet Addendum that arrived in Monday’s mail will see the problem: The type on the addendum is about half the size of the original printed pamphlet.
The addendum includes four passages from I-185 and two from I-186 — not the complete text. The passages on the addendum are key parts of the initiatives — sections that would be added or deleted by the proposed laws. The errors in the original pamphlets are several missing underlines and cross-outs, so the reader cannot tell what the initiative proposes to add or subtract from existing law.
It’s not clear how the errors came to the attention of the SOS office, but careful readers in the League of Women Voters in Billings noticed the strike through and underline omissions at their committee meeting on Oct. 8. President Cathy Fitzgerald said a member volunteered to phone and alert the SOS office.
The SOS office discovered the removal of underlines and strike-through lines on Oct. 9 and had the online pamphlet corrected Oct. 10, according to Susan Ames, office manager in Helena. Ames told The Gazette in an email Wednesday that the cost of the correction addendum was paid "from savings in our operations budget. No general fund was used."
The correction addendum was mailed out at the end of last week, just as hundreds of thousands of Montanans were receiving the mailed absentee ballots they requested. The Department of Administration received a purchase order from the Secretary of State Office on Oct. 11, and the correction addenda were in the mail Friday or Saturday, according to department spokeswoman Amber Conger.
Although counties paid for the original pamphlet mailing, the Secretary of State Office will cover the addendum postage, which totaled $204,000 to deliver the corrections as soon as possible. Including costs of printing and processing, the correction cost $265,000.
Christi Jacobsen, chief of staff to Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, told the Associated Press that 471,000 copies were printed.
The $265,000 error is regrettable. The turnaround was quick when the SOS office ordered a correction. Unfortunately, the correction is in small print and requires the reader to flip back and forth between the hard-to-read addendum and 14 pages of the full text of the two initiatives.