Dr. John Lott has a brand new piece up at The Federalist concerning the issues with voting even in Montana.
If we’re going to keep away from the kind of debate that we noticed after the November 3, 2020 election and restore confidence, then transparency is necessary. Take one of many least apparent locations the place individuals have considerations concerning the election — Montana.
Donald Trump received the state in 2020 by 16.4 p.c. However there’s an election transparency downside in Missoula County, Montana’s second-most populous county.
If errors can happen in even comparatively uncontested elements of the nation, we ought to be broadly involved. What went incorrect? Properly, all of it acquired worse after Covid-19 made mail-in voting mainstream.
Final January 4, a recount of the 2020 election in Missoula madenational news when it discovered 4,592 fewer envelopes than the County Election Workplace’s tally of 72,491 votes. That may be a 6.33 p.c distinction in votes counted. The county’s election was solely mail-in, and envelopes have been essential for checking dates and signatures.
Throughout that recount, the Missoula County election board provided 31 boxes of envelopes to be counted. On March 28, in a depend commissioned by the Missoula County Republicans, the depend resulted in only 71 fewer envelopes than votes.
Why the distinction? For the March 28 depend, the election board provided 33 boxes — two greater than have been supplied within the first depend (affidavits accessible here, here, and here).
With a complete of 67,899 envelopes within the January 4 recount, having them in 31 bins would suggest a mean of two,200 envelopes per field. Throw in two lacking bins, and also you come remarkably near the unique distinction of 4,592 envelopes and the remaining distinction of 71 envelopes.
What Explains the Discrepancy?
So, there are two choices, and neither is nice. First, maybe the county initially misplaced two bins of envelopes. “It might imply that the Election Workplace is merely incompetent and misplaced monitor of two bins,” said state Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Helena, in an announcement on Monday. Tschida organized the January 4 recount.
The second choice is that the 2 bins of envelopes magically materialized. Tschida was much less diplomatic about this: “The opposite different is that within the 15 months since January 4, 2021, two additional bins of counterfeit envelopes have been generated intentionally by wrongdoers.”
It’s essential to look at the video that the county election workplace product of the envelope-opening on election night time, as one might merely depend envelopes as they open. Certainly, that’s exactly why these kind of movies are made. However there’s a large downside. The county erased the video.
Missoula County laws name for all video information to be preserved for at the very least 60 days. Importantly, federal legislation requires that “all information and papers… regarding any… act requisite to voting in such election [for federal office]” be saved for 22 months.
Clearly, the November 3, 2020 election had federal elections from the U.S. Home of Representatives to the presidency. However the Montana Election Integrity Venture particularly requested County Election Administrator Bradley Seaman on December 22, 2020 to protect the movies, solely 42 days after the election, effectively inside each time intervals. Now they’re allegedly gone.
With out the video, there isn’t any option to decide what number of envelopes have been opened on November 3, 2020. The erasure of the video doesn’t instill confidence.
In April of final yr, after the unique depend by the Integrity Venture, Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen promised her workplace would create new statewide necessities. Particularly, she vowed to “defend the integrity of elections by enhancing election transparency by video necessities and retention.” However a yr has now handed and extra elections have passed by. Jacobsen’s workplace has issued no associated necessities or additional statements.
The Integrity Venture had discovered different issues not examined on March 28. When testing a smaller, random subsample of 15,455 mail-in envelopes, the mission discovered that 55 lacked postmark dates and 53 never had their signatures checked. That’s a complete of 0.7 p.c of all ballots within the pattern. Dozens of ballots additionally appeared to have duplicate signatures from nursing houses.
The newer recount was carried out solely by the county. As Tschida notes, “The Election Workplace required citizen observers to sit down at the very least six ft away — too far to see the signatures or dates on the affirmation envelopes.”
As well as, in the course of the January 2021 recount, the Missoula County Election Workplace refused to permit any footage and claimed Covid restrictions made it not possible for these doing the recount to share envelopes — it thus wasn’t doable to precisely doc the duplicate signatures.
If Individuals don’t belief the election outcomes, they are going to be discouraged from voting sooner or later. Montana is hardly on anybody’s radar for vote fraud. However the concern is that if these issues can occur in Montana, they’ll occur anyplace.
John R. Lott, Jr., “Montana’s 2020 Election Irregularities Are Still Unaddressed Despite Recounts Gone Wrong, Erased Records, And Suddenly Surfacing Ballots,” The Federalist, April 18, 2022.