Ballot Integrity the Focus of Open House at County Elections Headquarters
Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors bristles when allegations arise about the integrity of ballots and elections in Missoula County. so she conducted a guided tour through the process a ballot goes through before it is counted at elections headquarters.
The integrity of the election process is being scrutinized nationwide and Connors said she was happy to throw open the doors to the process to the public and the media on Monday at the County Elections Headquarters at the Missoula County Fairgrounds on Monday morning.
"This is Peggy Chilcote, she's one of the workers here that really contributes a lot to the process," Connors said. "She helps to keep a tight process. She handles the reception of ballots, through the verification process for Montana Votes, the voter database."
Chilcote described the process of how the over 44,000 absentee ballots would be handled and how the use of technology and hard work by hand keeps the ballots confidential, how signatures are verified, and how some are separated so that the voter can be contacted to verify their ballot.
Connors emphasized the steps Montana citizens go through to register to vote.
"When you're filling out a registration card, you have to write down that Montana drivers license number, or the last four digits of your social security number," Connors said. "You do not have to show an ID to register to vote. When you show ID is when you go to the polling place to cast your ballot on election day.."
She said there about 55 people on her payroll helping out on the election, some are experienced old hands, while others are just learning the ropes.
One of the most often asked questions regarding elections, is the chance that hackers could break into the vote counting machines to falsify the returns. Not possible, said Connors, because the machines that county the ballots are not hooked up to the internet. Chilcote echoed that information.
"None of the voting machines that Rebecca just referenced are connected to the internet," Chilcote said. "They just deal with the card that's in there. so, we don't have to worry about bugs in the internet, because we're not hooked up."
Connors said she was upset to see videos about voter fraud, but emphasized the safety of the process in Missoula County.
"I saw the videos and it gives me great heartburn when I see that kind of stuff," she said. "But, we really do our best to through all our processes and procedures, and if you want to be part of the testing process, that is definitely open to the public. My staff tries to catch any of the reading errors. Since recounts have been done, through Vicki Zeier's administration and mine, all the recounts have held up through post-election auditors if we have a tight race. All those audits have held up."