Glacier County will conduct the upcoming General Election by mail ballot following the adoption of Resolution 2020-20 on Aug. 27. County election officials will still allow voters to vote their ballot for the Nov. 3 election in-person if they choose, following strict COVID-19 safety measures, including face masks and social distancing.
Commissioner Tom McKay questioned what could be done about ballots that voters immediately toss into the trash without opening. He referenced the Primary Election where he said he saw ballots in the trash of the Browning Post Office the day after they were mailed out.
“I was in the Browning Post Office and there were ballots already in the trash…I took those out of the trash and I took them to the Satellite Office and then they opened them and called the people whose names were on the outside of the envelope and asked them, ‘did you really mean to throw this in the trash or are you going to vote? We have your ballot.’”
McKay, who was a Democratic candidate in the Primary Election, lost his bid for re-election to challenger Brian Gallup.
McKay wanted Kennerly to contact both the Cut Bank and Browning Post Offices and have their postal workers retrieve unopened ballots from the trash and return them to the courthouse and satellite office in Browning. He wanted the county workers to then call the voters to make sure they really meant to throw their ballots away.
Clerk and Recorder Mandi Kennerly explained, “We can’t ask the postal service to dig through the trash. As elected officials, we can’t go in there and dig through the trash.”
She also pointed out how her office has procedures and policies in place to protect against voter fraud and to allow county residents every opportunity to register and vote in the upcoming election.
Due to mailing delays, ballots will be available as early as Oct. 2 at the Glacier County Courthouse and the Satellite Office in Browning. They will be mailed out on or before Oct. 9, which is consistent with the timeline for absentee ballots. Voters will not have to provide their own postage stamp to return their ballot, assured Kennerly. The mailed ballot will include “a prominent notice” that a postage stamp is not necessary to return their ballot.
Kennerly pointed out that 63 percent of Glacier County’s active registered voters already vote absentee. She also expressed “complete confidence” in both the Cut Bank and Browning post offices and their staff in handling the mail ballot election.
“Our responsibility is to push the message” when you get your ballot to return it as soon as possible, emphasized DesRosier. Kennerly and the Commissioners were in agreement that due to the pandemic, the mail ballot election was the safest option.
According to the resolution, which was drafted by Glacier County Attorney Terryl Matt, Kennerly and her staff are encouraged to “coordinate with Western Native Voice or similar nonprofit organizations advocating for Native Americans to facilitate voting on reservations, including but not limited to arrangements for adequate designated drop-off locations on the reservations or making transportation arrangements for voters seeking to vote in person.”
Other provisions of the resolution require:
• Election officials submit a written plan for conducting the election to the Secretary of State by Sept. 4, 2020.
•In advance of the election, election officials will publicize and provide information to voters about polling locations and designated drop-off locations.
•Changes or updates to those locations available through website updates, letters, posters, advertising, posted signs, or other means.
•Election officials to establish, implement, and enforce the Measures Required for Safe Registration and Voting set forth in Gov. Bullock’s Aug. 6, 2020 directive for all in-person voting for the Nov. 3 general election.