Missoula County’s election process is under fire from an article that appeared Wednesday on the website Real Clear Investigations, authored by Missoula resident John Lott, President of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

The article takes to task the Missoula County Elections Director Bradley Seaman over discrepancies Lott said were found during an independent count of affirmation envelopes* on January 4.

Missoula Representative Bradley Tschida engaged local attorney Quentin Rhoades to conduct the recount.

“You have to have an envelope with the ballot for it to be legal and for it to be counted,” said Lott. “It turns out that there were 4,592 votes more counted than there were envelopes for the ballots. On top of that, according to people who were looking at this, there were clear cases where duplicate signatures, where the same person, for example, appeared to have signed for all 28 votes at a local nursing home, and there were other cases. That may add at least another half a percentage point to the total.”

Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman explained the discrepancy.

“We did have a public records request from Mr. Rhoades, who is a local attorney, from Representative Brad Tschida, in early January,” said Seaman. “They asked for a public records request and we provided them access to the ballot affirmation envelopes. When they had conducted a count of those envelopes, their tally did not match the tally that was generated by the Secretary of State’s voter database, and confirmed throughout the election process.”

Seaman reiterated the statement that the numbers from Rhoades and Tschida did not match the official count.

“I think that’s the big discrepancy, is that their count of the records with that one time without a second quality control, didn’t match the number generated by the Secretary of State’s database, which we use and then confirm multiple times throughout the process to ensure that it’s accurate.”

Lott said the wheels are in motion for the investigation that would include a number of state agencies.

“What I think is going to happen is that this week a letter was sent to the Secretary of State’s office, and she has expressed concern with what has been found,” said Lott. “It’s also my understanding that the chair of the State Judiciary Committee has been talking about holding a hearing in April, possibly a joint hearing with the House Judiciary Committee to investigate.”

Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick welcomes the investigation, saying 'bring it'.

"Peter, I'm sorry to have to speak so frankly, but I believe this is utter foolishness and bring it on," said Slotnick. "Let them burn all the money they want in an investigation. Our board of Missoula County Board of Commissioners was involved in the voting canvass. This involved machines and people and so much redundancy, and somebody like Bradley Seaman, who has massive amounts of integrity poured through this. I can't remember the exact percentage but it was below one. It was like point oh, something and that's about it. That's about as good as it can possibly be."

Slotnick said the persons and groups involved in the investigation have an ulterior motive.

"What these folks are accusing us of is just patently false and wrong and let them bring on all the investigators all the money they want," he said. "If we dig for the truth, that's what you'll find. Again, this is not about concern for election integrity. This is out of real dislike and disgust for the politics of our county."

Read the full article here, which contains added materials.

*The group hand-counted affirmation envelopes, not ballots. Also, this was not a "recount" -- that is defined in statute and is only triggered under certain circumstances: https://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/title_0130/chapter_0160/parts_index.html

The group conducted a review of public records, not a "recount" or an "audit," a process that is also defined in statute: https://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/title_0130/chapter_0170/part_0050/sections_index.html 

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