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Deputy Elections Administrator Crystal Cole and the rest of the Elections staff are keeping very busy, making sure voters have access to vote safely in all areas of Glacier County. Crystal is working on setting up a manned cargo trailer in Browning at the Satellite Office to serve as a drop off location. She also has other plans in the works to ensure election workers and voters throughout the county are not only safe, but feel at ease while voting or registering to vote.

Election Day is less than two weeks away. Many voters have already submitted their ballots, but there are still many people who have not yet cast their vote in this year’s presidential election.

It takes a lot of energy, time and money for a county to take care of its voters and ensure their legal right to vote. Sometimes election officials could use a little help to get the job done properly, especially during a pandemic. Glacier County is receiving that help through an unexpected, but much welcomed,  $263,830 grant.

Glacier County employee Crystal Cole, who is the Deputy Assistant Election Administrator, wrote the grant. The grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) was awarded on Oct. 6.

According to the award letter from CTCL, the “funds must be used exclusively for the public purpose of planning and operationalizing safe and secure election administration in Glacier County in 2020.”

In Cole’s grant application, she requested and was awarded funds to: 

•Ensure Safe Efficient Election Day Administration

•Expand Voter Education and Outreach Efforts

•Launch Poll Worker Recruitment, Training and Safety Efforts

• Support Early In-Person Voting and Vote by Mail

“I came up with a quick detailed report of all we would like to purchase in order to follow the CDC guidelines as well as the Governor’s Directive,” said Cole. “What I originally asked for came up to over $17,000.”

When Cole submitted the application on Oct. 5, she did not expect to hear back from CTCL the next day, but that is what happened. 

“They emailed me a letter stating that they were pleased to inform us that they were awarding Glacier County $263,830.00. They stated the amount was based on and in reliance upon, the information and materials provided by Glacier County and the special circumstances Glacier County faces administering elections in 2020,” explained Cole. 

The County Commissioners formally accepted the approved grant, which covers expenses incurred between June 15 of this year and the end of the calendar year on Dec. 31, 2020, on Oct. 13. 

When a few pieces of additional paperwork are completed and returned to CTCL, the monies “could be here within three to 10 business days,” noted Cole.

In her grant submission, Cole provided great detail for each of the four categories she outlined. 

For the category, Ensure Safe Efficient Election Administration, Cole requested assistance in three areas:

1. Maintain open in-person polling places on Election Day. (Only two will be available through election time and on Election Day.) 

2. Procure personal protective equipment and personal disinfectant to protect election officials and voters.

3. Support and expand drive-thru voting, including purchase of additional signage, tents, traffic control, walkie-talkies and safety measures.

Under Expanding Voter Education and Outreach Efforts, two areas were listed as needing monies:

 1. Publish reminders for voters to verify and update their addresses or other registration information prior to the election. 

2. Educate voters on safe voting policies and procedures.

In category three, Launch Poll Worker Recruitment, Training and Safety Effort, Cole asked for assistance in three areas:

 1. Recruit and hire a sufficient number of poll workers and inspectors to ensure polling places are properly staffed, utilizing hazard pay or stipends. 

2. Provide voting facilities with funds to compensate for increased site cleaning and sanitization costs. 

3. Deliver updated training for current and new poll workers administering elections in the midst of the pandemic.

In the last category, Support Early In-Person Voting and Vote by Mail, Cole suggested they could use finances to:

 1. Expand or maintain the number of in-person early voting sites. 

2. Deploy additional staff and/or technology improvement to expedite and improve mail ballot processing.

“At this time, Glacier County has already started purchasing personal protective equipment, as well as plexiglass in our offices,” Cole pointed out. “We are looking to purchase a cargo trailer so that we have two. We already have one for this election and future elections so that we can set up ballot drop off locations at both main polling sites. We plan on hiring more workers to help with the election and hold a training so that we are prepared for election night.”

Cole continued, “We want to support local businesses by purchasing heaters, generators and whatever else we see will help with this election to ensure that we are running a safe election. We plan on doing more ads than usual so that our voters are aware of changes that will occur during this election.”

The money awarded from CTCL can only be used for the areas Cole outlined in her application. It cannot be used for any other funding other that what was specified. Cole must submit a grant report detailing how the dollars were spent back to CTCL by Jan. 31, 2021.

CTCL is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that connects “Americans with the information they need to become and remain civically engaged and ensure that our elections are more professional, inclusive and secure,” says their website. Their approach is to “connect local election departments with tools and trainings so that they can best serve their communities. We provide information that the public needs to develop lifelong civic habits,” the site added.

Cole said she learned of the grant and of CTCL from an election supervisor located in Lewis and Clark County. They too were approved for a grant from CTCL. 

This grant is a huge asset Glacier County. Thanks to Cole, Glacier County residents can go to the polls or on-site locations and know they are going to be part of a professional and safe election.

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