HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Secretary of State’s Office provided updates on the state’s statutorily required postelection audit, as well as Montana’s future election management system, during last week’s meeting of the State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SAVA).
Stuart Fuller, the Elections and Voter Services Manager for the Secretary of State’s Office, updated the committee on the state’s future election management system, electMT, which is being used to conduct parallel testing during the midterm election cycle.
“We are running the 2022 election on (the state’s current system) Montana Votes, but we’re also doing parallel testing and more work in electMT,” explained Fuller. “The parallel test is where the counties do double entry – they do voter registrations, issue and track absentee ballots, run reports, all kind of normal voter registration and election management things.”
“The results out of that testing were good and really shows that the electMT system is ready to go live in January,” Fuller continued.
County election officials also expressed their enthusiasm and support for the project.
“I would like to start by echoing Mr. Fuller’s comments – I think the parallel testing went well,” said Linda Sajor, Clerk and Recorder for Butte-Silver Bow. “Our county has participated in the tests of the primary election and the testing previous to that, so I think we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year.”
Twelve counties – Big Horn, Blaine, Fergus, Flathead, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Meagher, Phillips, Powell, Richland, Silver Bow, and Toole – conducted parallel testing during the June Primary Election, and those counties will again parallel test during November’s General Election.
“Thank you to our hard-working state and local election officials for continuing the effort to provide a modern, user-friendly platform to administer elections,” said Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen. “Conducting these parallel tests is an important step in the process to provide the common goal of voter confidence, election integrity, and transparency.”
The Secretary of State’s Office also explained laws and procedures behind the Postelection Audit Act, which has been Montana law since 2009. The law requires a random-sample audit of vote-counting machines following a federal election to provide a “quality-control method to check that the tabulators used to count votes have done their job,” explained Fuller.
Fuller outlined the process, including the dice roll that randomly selects precincts, races, and ballot issues (if applicable) to be audited in each county that uses a vote-counting tabulator; and how the County Audit Committee manually counts the votes during a public audit process to confirm there are no unexplainable differences in the manual count and tabulator tally.
Fuller said none of the counties required to conduct the postelection audit reported an unexplainable difference.
“The Postelection Audit Act has served Montana well since 2009 and it’s a great way to have transparency in elections, and it’s a great quality-control check to make sure the tabulators are doing what we expect them to do,” said Fuller.
“Montana boasts several industry best practices,” said Secretary Jacobsen, “including the important postelection audit process. Paper ballots, pre-election testing of voting equipment, the postelection audit, and cybersecurity training and election security assessments are just a few examples of how state and local election officials work hard to create safe, secure, and transparent elections in Montana.”
“As a reminder, Montana’s General Election is Tuesday, November 8, 2022, and all eligible Montanans can register to vote by noon the day before the election,” added Secretary Jacobsen. “Get vote ready today by confirming your registration information is up to date, and we’ll see you at the polls in November.”