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MT: Clerical Error Puts Butte Voters in Wrong Precinct

From Media Trackers-Montana:

An error by the Butte-Silver Bow Clerk and Recorder’s Office led to 21 voters being listed in the wrong precinct, which caused 8 voters to be mailed the wrong absentee ballot earlier this month.

The error affected a handful of residents on North Wyoming Street and North Excelsior Avenue in Butte. The county voting list mistakenly included these residents in Precinct 11 and State House District 78. Those residents are actually in House District 74.

“When I did the redistricting last year, there were three blocks I assigned wrong or to the wrong precinct and the wrong legislature [district],” stated Butte-Silver Bow Clerk and Recorder Sally Hollis in a telephone interview with Media Trackers.

The problem was first discovered by Republican State House candidate for HD 78 Suzzann Nordwick on October 3. Absentee ballots were mailed to Montana voters on October 6.

Nordwick told Media Trackers in a telephone interview that she made the discovery after obtaining a voting list from the Clerk and Recorder’s Office for HD 78 precincts in Silver Bow County. She said that she immediately recognized the name of someone who was not in her district.

“I grabbed the list, and I’m walking out, and I just looked down, and I see one of the names jumps out at me, and I go ‘she’s not in my district,’” Nordwick said.

Nordwick said that she then used the Google Earth file from the 2011-2012 Montana Redistricting Commission to confirm that the person’s address was “at least six blocks down” from where HD 78 begins. She also used the county precinct map to check addresses.

The candidate then notified the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, the county GIS department, and the Secretary of State’s MT votes help desk to get the problem corrected. She was later contacted by Clerk and Recorder Hollis to confirm that she was correct about the mistake.

Clerk and Recorder Hollis accepted full responsibility for the error, calling it “human error on my part,” and emphasized that her office had taken immediate steps to correct the list and notify the 8 absentee voters that they had the wrong ballots.

“When she [Nordwick] brought that to my attention, I went in and I put them [the voters] in correct precinct and district,” Hollis said. “And then I contacted the 8 people that were sent absentees, and explained what I did, and as soon as they got the ballots, I went and got the wrong ballots, and re-issued them brand new ballots with the correct information.”

She also said that she had the county GIS office go back and double check the voter list to make sure that there were no other errors.

Hollis said that the error only directly affected the 8 people who were mailed absentee ballots, as the other 13 would still have been placed in the correct district and precinct when voting at the polls.

When asked how the Clerk and Recorder’s Office could prevent a similar occurrence in the future, Hollis noted that redistricting — which was the source of the office’s confusion — would not occur for another 10 years. She then stated that her office would keep thorough notes for future clerks.

Ron Catlett

Ron Catlett is the Communications Director for Media Trackers Montana. Twitter: @RonCatlett

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Categories: Elections, Government Transparency, Must Read, Politics
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