Posted: November 8, 2006
Montana: How to Get from Here to Certification
In Montana, before a recount can be requested there must be an official canvass of the votes and the winner certified. The procedures for arriving at the official tally are summarized below:
Vote counting may begin prior to the close of polls, and will continue until finished. MT ST 13-15-207. From that point, the boards of county canvassers take over. They shall meet within three to seven days after the election to canvass the precinct returns. MT ST 13-15-401. However, if not all precinct returns are received, the board of county canvassers will postpone the canvass from day to day until all precinct returns have been received. MT 13-15-402. After canvassing, the county board will certify the results to the secretary of state. MT ST 13-15-501. The Board of State Canvassers, for whom the secretary of state serves as secretary, meets after all the returns have been received from the county boards, but no later than twenty days after the election, and certifies the winner. MT ST 13-15-507.
In order to count absentee ballots, the following rules apply: As soon as absentee ballots are received, officials determine to treat it in one of three different ways. First, if they determine that 1) the signature is genuine, 2) the voter is registered, and 3) any identification number associated with the voter matches up, the ballot is handled “as a regular ballot.” MT ST 13-13-241. If they determine the signature is not genuine or the voter is not registered, they will reject the ballot then and there. Id. Finally, if the signature and registration pass scrutiny but the identification number does not match up, the ballot will be treated as a provisional ballot unless the voters provide corrected identification after notification. Id.
For a provisional ballot to count, the voter must provide verification of identity and eligibility, or provide material responding to a challenge, by 5:00 p.m. on the day following the election. MT 13-15-107. However, once that information is received, the election officials may not count provisional ballots until 3:00 p.m. on the sixth day following the election. MT ADC 44.3.2114.
If a board of county canvassers finds an error in the precinct count, it may petition for a recount under 13-16-201 or an inspection of ballots under 13-16-420.
The 2006 timeline for counting votes:
Nov. 7 Election Day. Counting of regular and absentee ballots begins.
Nov. 8 Supplemental information for provisional voter eligibility and identity due by 5:00 p.m. (or must be postmarked by 5:00 p.m.).
Nov. 10 Earliest date that board of county canvassers may begin canvassing precinct returns.
Nov. 13 Day provisional ballot counting may begin in precincts.
Nov. 14 Latest date on which county board of canvassers may begin canvass.
Nov. 27 Date on which board of state canvassers must meet and certify final tally.
Contributed by Terri Enns and Nathan Cemenska.