As of Tuesday morning, 60% of Montana’s absentee ballots have already been returned. According to Montana’s Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, there are about 741,000 registered voters in the state and 389,000 ballots have been returned. However, Stapleton said there are some concerning numbers as well.

“We have an uptick in mismatch signatures,” Stapleton said. “That's when somebody signs for somebody else's ballot. We also have a considerable uptick in undeliverable ballots. I think in 2018 we had 12,000 undeliverable mail ballots. This year we already have, as of last Thursday, 21,000 ballots which were undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service.”

If people intentionally sign someone else’s ballot, Stapleton considers that voter misconduct and not voter fraud.

“The definition of fraud is that you have to prove intent,” Stapleton said. “Imagine trying to prove the intent of an action that you don't have any evidence. It's almost impossible. We have no widespread voter fraud in Montana to my knowledge. Each year, there's a handful of cases where you can actually have law enforcement involved or a clerk involved or you have somebody that actually admits to doing something, but those are remote. The problem is, is you really can't prove intent and there's so many cases that even if they did happen, you would never be able to prove because our system is not set up that way.”

Stapleton said he is more concerned about people who are intentionally ballot harvesting when they know they are not allowed to do so. He said his intention is to get all the votes counted as quickly as possible.

“Keep in mind one of the benefits of all mail ballots is that they're going to open those ballots and those counting machines are going to be firing away,” Stapleton said. “We're not going to have the usual wait times for a big bulk of these. We may know the outcomes of these races, even the presidential race could be determined before midnight.”

Stapleton recommends visiting to view the status of your ballot. He said that is the best way to make sure your vote gets counted.

“If you want to check on the status of your vote or your ballot, you just go on there and enter in your personal information when it asks you,” Stapleton said. “You can see if your vote has been received and when it was received by your local county. If that's true, then you know your vote is counted. For those people voting in person, give yourself a little extra time. Wear your mask and follow the rules that have been promulgated by the CDC and your local health officials. Again, because we have such a high turnout right now, everybody is just slammed. The phones are ringing, the mail is coming in, and that's good for democracy.”

When the election ends, Stapleton expects about an 80% voter turnout in the state of Montana.

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