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Lawmakers receive a new voter database update for Montana



Helena, Montana – Representatives from the Montana Secretary of State’s Office stated at a legislative committee meeting on Thursday that they are happy with the new statewide elections database thus far, despite a few difficulties.

“Just like a phone, we’ve been doing updates and we’ve encountered bugs – you know, when you implement a new system, it’s not 100%,” said Stuart Fuller, election and voter services manager for the Secretary of State’s Office.

A report on the ElectMT system was given to the State Administration and Veterans Affairs Interim Committee. The system has been operational for over a year, and this week marks three major election dates: school elections in May, municipal primaries in June, and municipal general elections this week.

The statewide voter database is an essential component of secure elections. It is used by each of the 56 county election offices for tasks like verifying voter signatures, ensuring voters are not enrolled more than once, and issuing votes. However, representatives claimed that a change had been planned for some time and that Montana Votes, the prior system, had become antiquated.

Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen postponed the transition, which was initially scheduled for 2022, in order to ensure that the new system was prepared, and ElectMT officially took the place of Montana Votes statewide in January. Fuller informed lawmakers that election officials will benefit from several greatly enhanced aspects of the new system.

“A number of other things that really make this system more usable, more modern, and able to serve our customers, the voters of the state, in a better manner,” he said.

For instance, Fuller stated that they can now identify residents’ precise locations rather than only relying on street address ranges thanks to the implementation of more precise mapping systems.

“I think a good example of this is a person that lives in a very narrow corner of one county, where their driveway is in one county and their house is in another county,” he said. “And for years they were actually probably voting in the wrong county just because the old system had everything in ranges.”

Along with ElectMT, there’s an updated online voter portal that replaces the My Voter Page. Voters will be able to access sample ballots and information for both statewide and municipal elections on the new website.

According to Fuller, their next job is to put the most recent precinct maps for every county into the system in time for the 2024 elections, which will see the selection of state House and Senate representatives from newly reconfigured districts. According to him, they have finished the work in 14 counties, have scheduled 23 more, and have not yet given a definite deadline to 19. By mid-December, they intend to have completed all counties.

According to Fuller, they have been in frequent communication with county election supervisors to make modifications to ElectMT. Although local officials have given them a variety of opinions, he claimed that the majority have been pleased with the change.

On Thursday, Jen Hensley, who works for the Missoula County elections office, reaffirmed that statement.

“They’re so pleased with ElectMT,” she said. “Echoing the Secretary of State’s Office comments – it’s not perfect. Could it be better? Absolutely, and we’re working with the office to make it better.”
The issue that arose during this week’s municipal elections—in which voters in Kalispell were given ballots based on their old ward borders rather than the revised lines that were authorized in December 2021—was also discussed during the meeting on Thursday. However, in an email to the committee, the election administrator for Flathead County stated that there was a clerical error at the local level and not a problem with the ElectMT software.




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