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Montana: State GOP Challenges Eligibility of Voters PDF  | Print |  Email
By Chelsi Moy, The Missoulian   
October 02, 2008
The state Republican Party this week challenged the eligibility of 6,000 registered Montana voters in seven counties historically considered Democratic strongholds.

More than half of the people challenged statewide live, or previously lived, in Missoula County.

Montanans who are registered to vote in Missoula, Butte-Silver Bow, Lewis and Clark, Deerlodge, Glacier or Hill counties and who filled out a change-of-address card with the U.S. Postal Service in the past 18 months will likely have to verify their correct place of residence before the Nov. 4 election.

Ignoring the situation, at the very worst, could disqualify a person's ballot. “The integrity of the voting process is something that has to be above reproach to have faith in the system,” state GOP executive director Jacob Eaton said. “We aren't trying to prevent anyone from voting. We want people to register properly.”

The search for Montanans who have failed to update their address on their voter registration was sparked by comments made by Gov. Brian Schweitzer to the American Association for Justice at a meeting in Philadelphia this summer, Eaton said.

“With Schweitzer's recent comments about rigging the '06 election, that brought everyone in the state to a new level of suspicion and awareness of the integrity of our elections,” he said.

Democrats, however, are crying foul, describing the challenge as a “desperate” attempt by Republicans to keep Montanans from casting ballots in November.

Read the Entire Article in The Missoulian
Montana and South Dakota Snapshot PDF  | Print |  Email
By Sean Flaherty, Verified Voting Foundation   
June 02, 2008

Montana holds a Democratic Party Presidential primary on June 3. A Republican caucus was held February 5. The primary is open to all voters.

Montana has a statewide paper ballot system, with the AutoMARK used statewide for voters with disabilities, and ES&S scanning equipment used in most counties.

12 counties, with approximately 2% of the state's nearly 628,000 registered voters, hand-count their paper ballots. 29 counties, with approximately 60% of the state's registered voters, use the ES&S M100 precinct scanner. 7 of these counties, with nearly 40% of the state's voters, use central-count scanners as well. Montana allows no-excuse absentee voting, so it is likely that many ballots in these 7 counties will be counted centrally.

The remainder of the state's 56 counties uses ES&S central count scanners, including the M650 in 8 counties, the M150 in 5 counties, and the Optech 200 in 2 counties.

South Dakota

South Dakota will hold closed primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties on June 3. The state has over 550,000 registered voters.

South Dakota has a statewide optical scan system, with the AutoMARK for voters with disabilities in all polling places. All ballots are scanned centrally, though 31 counties use the ES&S M100 for central counting. The remaining 35 counties use the M650.
Ohio Report Faults Montana Voting Machines PDF  | Print |  Email
By League of Women Voters of Montana   
January 06, 2008

Ohio has just done Montana voters a huge favor.

Last summer, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner asked an independent review team of nationally accredited academic and corporate computer and election experts to test Ohio’s voting machines. Many are the same machines used in Montana to count our votes.

The results?

Released on December 14th, the $1.9 million EVEREST review found “critical security failures” in machines made by Election Systems and Software (ES&S).   Forty-four of Montana’s fifty-six counties use one or more ES&S machines. M100 precinct counters are used in twenty-three Montana counties, the 650 central counters in eleven and the AutoMARK in all.

Researchers found the M100 optical scanners are “susceptible to attacks at the polling location that could affect election integrity,” and “an unauthorized individual could delete records of votes by zeroing out the vote totals.” The 650 central counter was, “successfully tampered to alter elections data in erratic ways and with obvious, but unpredictable results.”  The AutoMARK’s sensitive inner machine was easily accessed by disassembling its cover.

A key finding of the review was that ES&S had “failed to adopt, implement and follow industry standard best practices in the development of the system.” Many of these weaknesses have been known for several years, yet continue to exist in ES&S systems.
Montana Needs Tighter Election Scrutiny PDF  | Print |  Email
By League of Women Voters of Montana   
November 16, 2007

Did your vote count in the 2006 general election? A report on Montana’s election process released in August by the Montana Legislative Audit Division may go a long way in helping you answer that question.

“The Help America Vote Act and Related Elections Issues,” is the first comprehensive, statewide examination of how elections are conducted in Montana. Prior to the 2002 Help America Vote Act, elections were mainly the responsibility of counties.


The audit report examined almost every aspect surrounding how citizens register and vote. (Read the report.) The good news is that the audit found no evidence of fraud in the 2006 general election.


The not so good news is that significant problems were found in the election process:

Montana: Electronic Voting, Counting Machines can be Troublesome PDF  | Print |  Email
By Billings Gazette   
December 12, 2006
Montana Rep. Brady Wiseman is a Democrat and Secretary of State Brad Johnson is a Republican, but the two are in agreement on the need for secure, reliable elections.
This editorial appeared in The Billings Gazette

Their shared background has something to do with it. Wiseman is a software engineer for RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, an Internet technology company, and Johnson used to work there as an account manager.

"The point is, he has the technology background, and so do I," Wiseman said. "We saw eye to eye immediately on touch-screen voting machines."

They didn't like what they saw, which is why they worked together on a bill Wiseman introduced during the 2005 legislative session to require all voting technology in the state to use paper ballots. The law easily passed in both chambers of the Montana Legislature.

Wiseman said it was an easy sell because he asked each of his colleagues to imagine himself in a hotly contested political race. Imagine having some individual counting all the ballots in the back of a closed truck and emerging to tell you you've lost the election.
Montana: Paper Ballots Ensure Best Elections PDF  | Print |  Email
By Ed Kemmick, Billings Gazette Staff   
November 26, 2006
This article appeared in The Billings Gazette. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
Steve Corrick, an election-reform advocate in Missoula, has a simple formula for ensuring the most reliable election results: "Trust paper, and then count the paper."

That, in essence, is also what is required under Montana law. A bill enacted by the 2005 Legislature requires all voting technology in the state to use paper ballots that also can be counted by hand.

That's why the most recent election - when the eyes of the nation were trained on a handful of all-night tabulations in Montana, with the balance of the U.S. Senate at stake - didn't turn into a Florida-style debacle. It may have been a long night, but nobody questioned the results the next morning.

It is also why the balance of the Montana House of Representatives will be decided Tuesday in Yellowstone County, where a tie vote in a Laurel House race will be subjected to a hand recount of nearly 4,500 ballots.

Some states use electronic voting devices that involve a touch screen. With those, there is no paper trail, no way of verifying results or conducting a recount. In Montana, 16 sparsely populated counties still hand-count ballots, but even in counties where optical scanners are used to tally votes, the ballots, with their penciled-in ovals, can be examined by hand, as in the recount planned for Tuesday.

Having those paper ballots to fall back on is a distinction that makes Montana the envy of election activists in many states.
Montana: What Went Wrong? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Lynette Hintze, Features Editor, Daily Inter Lake   
November 17, 2006

Computer glitch, Election Day registration slowed Flathead vote The Daily Inter Lake

The following article appeared in the Daily Inter Lake on November 10, 2006.

During an election night filled with voting snafus statewide, Flathead County once again struggled with glitches in the computer software designed to tabulate vote totals. It was deja vu for election officials who had vowed to have final results tallied by 10 p.m. on Tuesday. By 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the county still had about 200 provisional ballots to process.

Officials made the same promise of early results for the June primary election, only to face computer software problems that delayed vote counting by several hours. County Election Director Monica Eisenzimer said this time around, her department had conducted successful test runs on the software system provided by Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software.

But shortly after the polls closed Tuesday, tabulators discovered the vote information on computer memory cards for each precinct didn’t coincide with the manually tabulated reports.

Montana ES&S Electronic Voting Overview PDF  | Print |  Email
By Steve Corrick,   
August 18, 2006

The PowerPoint document* that accompanies this article (Download as PDF) is intended as an introduction to Montana's electronic voting process, which is handled for the 40 of Montana's 56 counties that use electronic voting, by Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of Omaha, Nebraska. (The other 16 counties, mostly smaller ones, still use hand-counted paper ballots.) (For easy reprint, you can download the black and white version of the Montana ES&S Security pdf.)

Montana has generally had good results from the use of the ES&S machinery--with the recount of the Missoula Mayoral primary in 2005 serving as a good example of how elections should be run. The hand recount of the ES&S op-scan ballots only changed vote totals by two votes and both candidates in the run-off were very pleased with the accuracy of the results.

That said, ES&S, which is the nation's largest voting machine company, has had serious delivery, accuracy and contractual problems in at least seven states during the 2006 primary elections, and is currently being sued by the West Virginia Secretary of State; is being asked for refunds for poor fulfillment or inaccurate results in two states, and because of inaccuracies in the way it printed and counted ballots has had at least two elections overturned by hand recounts of the actual paper hand-marked or optical scan ballots. For stories see the last part of this document.

Additionally, no public hack test of ES&S machines has ever been conducted; while both of its main competitors have had their machines successfully hacked in public demonstrations that left no evidence that the hacks were performed. Like its competitors, ES&S also jealously guards its programming so that no public analysis of the software is possible. 95% of polled computer security experts feel that the dangers of electronic voting are so significant that they strongly recommend a number of safety procedures to protect against electronic voting machine fraud or error.

Montana's Online Voter Verification Service Wins Award from the Council of State Governments PDF  | Print |  Email
By BusinessWire Press Release   
February 10, 2006
A unique eGovernment service that helps Montanans to exercise their right to vote is also an award-winner. The Montana Secretary of State's Voter Verification Service was recently honored with an Innovation Award from the Council of State Governments, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit group that serves all three branches of state government.

The Montana Voter Verification service is the first of its kind in the nation. As part of the national Help America Vote Act and Montana state law, citizens are now required to present legal identification at polling stations. The new laws led to a concern that citizens unaware of the recent requirements might not be able to vote if they failed to bring a driver's license with them to the polling station. The Voter Verification Service allows voting officials to verify the identity of voters by searching the state's driver record database over the Internet. If matched in the database, voters are eligible to proceed to the polls.


"It's great for Montana to be recognized for leading the way in technology," said Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson (pictured at right). "In a state where people often live more than 20 miles from their polling place, this technology allows us to make sure everyone gets a chance to vote on election day."


Montana's Voter Verification Service is available in all 56 Montana counties for primaries as well as the November general election. For additional information about the service, visit the state's official Web site at


The Council of State Governments Innovations Awards program was established 30 years ago to recognize exemplary programs in state government. This national awards program receives hundreds of applications each year that are judged on newness, creativity, effectiveness, transferability, and significance. State government leaders review the applications and the winners are chosen by how well the service current addresses issues in state government.

This award-winning service is a result of an alliance between state government and the private sector. The Voter Verification service was cooperatively developed and is supported by the Montana Secretary of State's office, the Department of Justice, the Department of Administration's Information Technology Services Division, and Montana Interactive, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of eGovernment provider NIC (Nasdaq:EGOV).

Montana: Is Great Falls Ready for a Single Polling Place? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Great Falls Tribune   
December 11, 2005
This editorial appeared in the Great Falls Tribune on December 9, 2005.

At a time when Congress is passing laws with titles such as the "Help America Vote Act," consolidating city voting into one big polling place doesn't seem very helpful. Yet that's exactly what Cascade County is considering for the elections coming this spring.
At a meeting Wednesday among county and Montana ExpoPark officials, the idea of a giant voting operation at Four Seasons Arena seemed to be where Cascade County was headed. As discussed at the meeting, the proposal would maintain distributed polling places for residents outside the city.

Our initial reaction is that the move runs counter to other recent balloting changes aimed at making voting easier. This change would make life easier for election administrators, but not necessarily for voters.

The primary fear is that fewer citizens will bother to make the trip across town to cast a ballot with a thousand or two of their best friends. Indeed, some residents on on the east end of town wouldn't have time.
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