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New law changes regulations on ballot delivery

LAKE COUNTY – There are new restrictions on Montana residents who convey other people’s absentee ballots to the election office this year. The change comes as a result of the Ballot Interference Prevention Act, which was approved by 63 percent of Montana voters in the November 2018 election. 

The new law restricts who can deliver ballots, how many they can deliver and require those who drop off ballots to fill out a form. Election Administrator Katie Harding said the change is significant.

“It’s going to effect everybody,” Harding said. “But it’s not going to be that complicated.”

According to BIPA, an individual can only turn in the ballot of a person with whom they have a qualifying relationship. People are only eligible to turn in ballots of family members, household members, acquaintances or people who they care for.

BIPA also enacts a limit on the number of ballots an individual can deliver that are not their own. One person can bring no more than six ballots to the elections office, aside from their own. 

Those who bring other voters’ ballots to the office will be asked to register in a log. The log includes a person’s name, address, phone number and relationship to the voter of the individual who delivers the ballot. It also requires the name and address of the voter. Those who deliver ballots can get access to the form online or fill it out at the elections office.

Prior to BIPA, individuals could bring any number of ballots to an election office and were not required to fill out any paperwork.

According to Harding, the office will accept and count any ballots delivered, even those that do not comply with BIPA and will then report any failures to comply with the new rules to the Commissioner of Political Practices, who will investigate. Those who are found to have delivered ballots without complying with BIPA will be fined $500. 

This spring’s Special District and School District Election will be the first where BIPA is enacted. The election will be held on May 7. 

 

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