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From the diaries by Erick . . .
In at least two counties in Montana, the home of a competitive U.S. Senate race that could tip the balance of power in the upper chamber, massive mail-in absentee ballot irregularities have been uncovered by Media Trackers Montana, a non-partisan investigative research organization with operations in five states across the country. In Broadwater county alone, where Sen. Jon Tester received only 35 percent of the vote in the 2006 general election, up to 600 erroneous mail-in ballots have been reported. Over a dozen Billings-area voters have complained that they received incorrect ballots. Yellowstone county officials have also reported numerous complaints from voters receiving the wrong ballot.
And to top it all off, even a sample ballot available to individual voters on the Montana Secretary of State’s website is incorrect (this particular ballot allows the voter to select a state representative in two separate districts — districts 68 and 83). A majority of Montana voters are expected to vote by mail this November.
The Media Trackers investigation found state political officials in total disarray. One county elections supervisor gave Media Trackers Montana several conflicting reasons for the ballot snafu. Broadwater County elections officer Rhonda Nelson, a Democrat, told Media Trackers that the county experienced a “computer glitch with the software vendor” which resulted in numerous ballot anomalies. But when pressed for more specificity, Nelson seemed to contradict herself, stating, “This happened because I was in the hospital the day the ballots were approved and while my deputy was watching things, it was one less set of eyes on the process.” Despite the widespread and significant ballot problems, Nelson told Media Trackers that she was confident in the integrity of the mail-in ballot system and that she planned to “personally call everyone who received a bad ballot and let them know they will be getting correct ballots.”
Scott Aspenlieder, a Republican seeking to unseat current Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat, issued a scathing press release after Media Trackers first reported the ballot irregularities. “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,” he wrote. “This failure of leadership is simply unacceptable, and Montanans deserve better.”