UPDATE – Voter Fraud Investigation In Missoula County – Administrator Claims ‘Clerical Error’ – County Attorney Responds
UPDATE - 12:00 p.m. Friday, June 16
KGVO News contacted Missoula County Elections Coordinator Rebecca Connors about the reported voter fraud that occurred in the special congressional election, and she said she had not been notified by Secretary of State Corey Stapleton's office that he was issuing that press release.
"I wish they would have handled it differently," Connors said. They did not coordinate with our office. Corey Stapleton and the Secretary of State's Office does not have the best relationship with their elections clerks. We were not notified of a press release, or that they were going to make this public, so we don't feel there is a partnership with this moving forward."
Connors explained what happened with the mail in ballot in question, that it was basically a clerical error.
"While we were certifying the votes, we did have an incident where a voter in Missoula County where our office accepted a signature on an absentee ballot from that voter, and that voter said that was not the case," she said. "We explained that to the Secretary of State's office that our office would consider it a clerical error, not as voter fraud. In this instance the signatures were very similar and because of that, that ballot was accepted."
Connors said the voter was able to fill out a provisional ballot, so her vote was not lost in the election.
Stapleton, however, maintains the issue was one of voter fraud.
"We finished that canvassing yesterday (Thursday), " Stapleton said. "We were off a vote in Missoula County. We looked into it and what happened was a voter looked up her information on the My Voter page, and it said that they had already received her absentee ballot, and she hadn't voted. She was actually the person who found the voter fraud, so somebody had signed her absentee ballot and sent it in. When it came to my attention, I thought it was important for people to know about it, so we contacted the Missoula County Attorney's office.
When Stapleton said this was the second case of voter fraud in consecutive election cycles, he was referring to the allegations that unauthorized people in Missoula had picked up mail ballots to bring to the elections office in the last election, so the integrity of those ballots was in question.
"We haven't had any issues like that with the polling places, just the mail-in ballots," he said. "So, in two consecutive election cycles in Missoula County we've had issues with the mail-in ballots."
Connors said there were approximately 32,000 mail-in ballots in the congressional election, with one clerical error.
"Of course, we want it to be zero," she said. "All the elections I've conducted have had zero errors. We do have people involved in the process, so we can't be 100 percent perfect every time."
The Missoula County Attorney's Office released the following statement on the voter fraud issue:
'Missoula County takes allegations of voter fraud very seriously. However, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s implication that there are pervasive ballot security issues in Missoula County is misleading. In the May 2017 Special Election, there were 47,159 ballots cast in Missoula County. There were 381,416 votes cast statewide. To the best of Missoula County’s knowledge there was only one report of a voting irregularity involving a single absentee ballot. The elections office investigated the matter as soon as it came to light and notified the Secretary of State. To suggest that there are serious ballot security issues based upon an isolated incident is simply inaccurate and a disservice to the public.
'The Secretary of State also referred to an incident in a prior election cycle. Since County Attorney Pabst has been in office, our office has received only one other report of possible voter fraud in May of 2016, once again involving a single ballot. Violations of election laws are a misdemeanor criminal offense. The Missoula County Attorney’s Office stands ready to prosecute any instances of voter fraud if a suspect is identified through a criminal investigation.'
Yet another instance of voter fraud is under investigation in Missoula.
Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton reported on Friday morning that the mail ballot voter fraud occurred in Missoula County during the recently completed special congressional election.
“We’ve had mail ballot security issues in Missoula now for two consecutive election cycles,” said Stapleton. “Our office takes this matter seriously.”
Stapleton said he has turned the matter over to the Missoula County Attorney’s Office.
KGVO news has reached out to Stapleton's office, the Missoula County Attorney and Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors for comment, but has received no replies as of 10:00 a.m. on Friday.