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Cascade County

May 7, 2014 9:02 PM by Claire Anderson (claire@krtv.com)

Miscommunication leads to confusion over Sun River school levy

GREAT FALLS -- Voters in the the Sun River Valley School District cast ballots regarding a technology fund levy for Simms High School on Tuesday.

Residents in both Simms and Vaughn were allowed to vote on this issue, but due to miscommunication, voters in Vaughn received their ballots 10 days later than they were supposed to.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction says according to Montana law, all mailed ballots for district and county election must be sent out no sooner than 25 days before they are due, and not after the 15th day before.

Cascade County sent the ballots to Vaughn voters five days before they were due.

According to the Cascade County Elections Office, which was in charge of sending out the ballots for Sun River Valley School District, they were not informed that residents in Vaughn also needed to be sent the ballots on the high school levy, as high school in Vaughn attend Simms High School.

The Elections Office says because Simms High School is considered to be in school district 55 and Vaughn is in 74, they were not aware of the cross-over.

Elections Office staff didn't realize the problem until until a Vaughn resident called the Elections office to ask about their ballots for the Simms school levy.

Rina Fontana-Moore, Cascade County Clerk & Recorder, explained, "It's confusing and if the paperwork isn't going to be entered into this department, and...if the school districts aren't going to deal directly with us, and we have to deal with an additional person, then we won't accept the responsibility anymore...so it was a mistake, it was a miscommunication between the two departments."

All ballots for the elections were due Tuesday night at 8 p.m., and the Cascade County Elections Office says there will be no extension for any voters.

As of now, the Office of Public Instruction says there is no law that spells out the repercussions of late ballot send-outs, and it is now in the hands of the voters in both Simms and Vaughn if they want to challenge the vote.

We called the Montana Secretary of State, who oversees all elections, to see what they had to say about the issue, but have not yet heard back.

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