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Copy machine blunders FJBC ballots

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County Election Administrator Kathie Newgard addressed issues concerning upcoming elections including a snafu with Flathead Joint Board of Control’s mail-in ballots during a phone interview April 19. She also reminds citizens that an election to fill a Montana congressional seat will be held at the polls.

An issue with the May 2 Irrigation District Commissioner Election occurred when the master form for the Flathead District election ballots was loaded into the copy machine and the ballots were printed, according to Newgard. After the Flathead District ballots were done, a second batch of paper was loaded into the printing machine for the Mission District ballots.

The Mission District master election form was put on the printer, but the printer defaulted back to the Flathead District’s master form instead copying the Mission form and the forms didn’t get checked.

About 100 envelopes in the Mission District contained ballots for the Flathead District. The ballots were mailed on Friday, April 15. The election office was notified of the problem on Monday morning.

People in the Mission District can’t vote for commissioners in the Flathead District. The FJBC is comprised of the Flathead, Mission and Jocko districts and people in each district vote only for representative within their district.

“There was no way of knowing who received the wrong ballot, so we sent out all new ballots in the Mission District,” she said.

People in the Mission District should now have two ballots. The first one has one vertical blue line printed on the address label. The second corrected ballot has two vertical blue lines on the address label. “Tear up the first one with one blue line on it,” she said. “Use the second one with two blue lines.”

The Mission Irrigation District Election contains two choices for commissioner. People can fill in the bubble to elect Roy L. Anderson or Gene Posivio for the next three-year term.

Some people might have already sent in the first ballot and it might or might not be a Flathead ballot. The election office will hold the first ballot if it was sent in.

“If the second ballot isn’t sent in, we will count the first one if it’s from the correct district,” she said.

Newgard doesn’t foresee any issues if both ballots are sent to the election office.

“We will only count one ballot per tax identification number,” she said.

The ballots need to be returned to the election office before the deadline. Newgard recommends putting them in the mail at least a week before the election date.

“Even though this is a mail-in election, the polls are open until 8 p.m. on May 2, and people can bring their ballots into the election office,” she said.

In the ballot envelopes, voters will also find instructions for proceeding with a vote if more than one person owns the property. It states that a form needs to be filled out to designate one person to vote on property with multiple owners. “If it wasn’t filled out last year, it will still need to be done this year,” she said. Newgard is waiting for protocol from the legislature for the rules on filling out that form for next year.

In the FJBC election, landowners get one vote for each irrigable acre that they own. Based on the Montana code, the ballots contain the number of acres and the number of votes cast.

Several other election measures are on ballots across the county for the May 2 Election including a vote for Charlo School District board members, North Lake County Public Library board members, Polson Rural Fire District, and Polson School District. Ronan School Board and Ronan’s Safety Mill Levy will also be voted on.

For those voting by mail, Newgard says it is important to vote on time. Ballots need to be received by the election office before or on Election Day. “Having them postmarked on Election Day doesn’t count,” she said. “We need the ballots before the polls close. People can bring them in if they need to.”

The county is also holding a special federal election on May 25 to fill Montana’s congressional seat with the United States House of Representatives, which was left vacant by Ryan Zinke after he was appointed as United States Secretary of the Interior in March.

“That election will be at the polls,” she said. “A mail-in election would have saved Lake County $40,000.”

Election scheduling issues haven’t conflicted with school graduations. “Polling places will be open and everyone should go to their normal polling place,” she said.

For those with absentee ballots, it’s important to mail them in before Election Day so they have time to get to the election office. “People can request an absentee ballot the day before the election, but the ballots need to be to us by May 25 at 8 p.m.,” she said. Again, she said, that if ballots were postmarked on Election Day they wouldn’t make it to the election office before the count is finished. For more information, contact the election office at 406-883-7268.

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