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Irrigators need signature form for election ballot verification

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ST. IGNATIUS – Several topics were addressed during the Flathead Joint Board of Control meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 9, including the CSKT-MT Water Compact, although the most time sensitive topic focused on election ballots.

It was said that irrigators should have received an envelope in the mail containing voting documents for the May 2018 election. The voting forms sent out to irrigators are required this year due to a new bill in the Montana Legislature. Those who didn’t receive an envelope and should have are asked to call the FJBC at 406-745-2090.

The green letter in the envelope marked “Important – Read Carefully” explains the instructions for completing the signature form and the designation form. The signature form was the most confusing document addressed at the meeting for many members of the public. The form is needed to verify a person’s signature because the election is done by mail.  

Chairman Ray Swenson acknowledged that the process was confusing. He said people have called him and asked if everyone needs to fill out the signature form and others asked about the notarizing process. Others at the meeting said the forms make it more difficult for people to vote.

Chairman Swenson explained that every irrigator voting in the election needs to sign a signature form and have it notarized for their election ballot to be counted. 

A notary, licensed by the government, puts a seal on the document to verify the signature. Local notaries can be found at various places including banks and law offices. The Montana Secretary of State posts locations for licensed notaries online at www.

The second document sent out to irrigators allows land owners to designate one person to vote for each land parcel; for example, if a husband and wife are both listed as owners, one of the two needs to be designated to vote. 

Owners must print their names at the top of the form, and a few lines down, they designate one person to vote. At the bottom of the form, the owners need to sign the paper. It also needs to be notarized. 

The signature form and the voter designation form must be completed and returned to the FJBC office before March 1. The instruction form notes that votes will not be counted unless the forms are completed and returned.

Three seats will be on the May election ballot. One Flathead District seat is up this year, which is held by Dave Vincent. Dean Brockway holds the Jocko District seat that is up for election. In the Mission District, Tim Orr’s seat is up for election. To be a candidate in the election, irrigators must file a form with the Lake County Election Office before 5 p.m. on Feb. 12. There is no filing fee. 

In other news, the board discussed the revision of bylaws used to direct decisions and board activity in an effort to make sure that they are being correctly followed. The board’s attorneys are helping with the revisions. The revisions are in the discussion process and weren’t voted on. 

District unity was the bylaw issue discussed at the last meeting. Suggestions were taken from the public as to the procedures needed for one of the three districts to withdraw from the joint board and operate separately. It was said that none of the districts are considering withdrawal at this time.

Three possibilities were considered as requirements for a district to withdraw: a two-thirds vote, a 90-day written notice, or 60 percent majority vote from irrigators. The issue will be discussed again at the next meeting. 

The budget was an item board members were going to vote on during the meeting, but the issue was incorrectly posted on the agenda, so as per the bylaws, the item will be voted on at the next meeting. A vote on an attorney contract was also held for the next meeting so the item can be posted correctly on the agenda.

FJBC Attorney Bruce Fredrickson reminded the board that they haven’t discussed their official opinion on the water compact between the State of Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for three years. The issue affects water rights on the Flathead Indian Reservation. A majority of board members were against the compact three years ago. 

Fredrickson suggested that the board consider starting a conversation to discuss the issue. He said the compact isn’t seeing any movement in the senate at this time, but the board should be prepared for the future. He added that whether they were for the compact or against it, they should be ready for a decision on the matter rather than “scrambling” to figure out what to do if it passes or doesn’t, which might affect how the board operates in relation to water use. Several board members said they would like to discuss the issue in the near future. It was also suggested that board members might be able to include their opinions as the compact is shaped. The next FJBC meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

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