GREAT FALLS — The Cascade County Elections Office conducted a public test and demonstration of its ballot counting machine on Wednesday at the fairgrounds, ahead of the November 2nd municipal election.
Elections staff ran sample ballots through their counting machine, and spent more than an hour explaining the process and answering questions from citizens and civic leaders about safety and security.
With increased scrutiny on elections nationwide, the test was an opportunity to provide transparency and clarity, and to alleviate concerns from the public about how votes are counted.
“Nothing that we do is hidden from the public, and the more the public knows about this, the more faith they would have in the process,” said Clerk & Recorder Rina Fontana Moore. “Because you have to prove that your equipment is running and running correctly, that the races are not flipped and that everything is going smoothly on election day.”
Montana state representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway, a Republican from Great Falls, was one of the elected legislators who attended. She and other attendees appreciate the staff for answering questions, but some still have concerns about security.
Sheldon-Galloway said, “We don’t trust the machines right now, and we think that’s what is causing people to question the elections. So we wanted to see how the machines run, and we had questions on how it functions and the information that they used.”
She added that there is a movement to push for legislation to replace machines with hand counts.
“I don’t think people have confidence in our elections, and I don’t think it has anything to do with our staff,” she said. “I just think it has something to do with an outside source coming in and doing something with our machines.”
Fontana Moore countered by explaining that Montana has some of the most secure elections and strict laws in place to combat any outside influence.
“There are layers upon layers or security in place. All I know is that Montana's laws are extremely, extremely good. I can't for the life of me think how we could even possibly make them better,” Moore said. “And so anybody that wants to come down that has any question, please, don't refer to Facebook, just come down to the elections office and ask questions. We will walk you through the whole process. We have nothing to hide.”
From the Elections Office website
- The purpose of this election is to elect a Mayor for the city of Great Falls for a two year term and two commission candidates for a four year term. Neighborhood Council members will also be elected on the November 2nd ballot.
- The purpose of this election is to elect a Mayor for the town of Belt and Alderman for Wards 1 & 2.
- The purpose of this election is to vote on Urban Chickens for the Town of Cascade.