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Stopping all-mail ballots would require "a bit of pivot”, says Missoula County official

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Posted at 11:48 AM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 13:48:47-04

The Missoula County Elections Office plans to move forward with an all-mail election by sending ballots out on Friday, but it’s also planning for a possible reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opponents of all-mail ballots on Tuesday filed an emergency appeal to the high court, asking it to stop Montana counties from mailing ballots later this week.

“I’ve got a backup area located to be a polling place,” Missoula County elections supervisor Bradly Seaman said on Wednesday. “I hope we can keep voters on a steady plan for this upcoming election, but we do have the option to set up a polling place election. It would require a bit of a pivot.”

The suit on Montana’s all-mail ballot was brought by a Republican candidate, the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, and four Republican voters.

They believe Gov. Steve Bullock lacked the authority to issue his directive allowing counties to choose whether they want to hold all-mail elections. The Trump campaign and national Republicans, who also have joined the suit, contending that an all-mail ballot opens the door to voter fraud.

Seaman said Missoula County has already accepted 374 ballots – a combination of in-person voting, which began on Oct. 2, and overseas ballots. County elections officials plan to send more than 77,000 ballots out on Friday.

It’s unlikely the Supreme Court can hear the case before then.

“There’s not a lot of time to make those decisions seeing as how ballots are already at the Post Office in many counties around the state,” Seaman said. “With a change like that, we’d need a lot of guidance from the Secretary of State’s office. The time frame is really pretty tight.”

While the county continues to move forward with all-mail ballots, it also plans to contract Big Sky Polls at the University of Montana to conduct a voter survey on their voting experience.

Missoula County commissioners approved the contract earlier this week.

“Specific for this election, we’ll talk about confidence in mail balloting,” Seaman said. “With this being our second federal election in Montana conducted entirely by mail, we’d like to get some scientifically conducted data, some good research on how voters get information, how they vote in these elections, and how confident they are in the process.”