Elections Department Sends Out Wrong Ballots to ‘Undetermined Number of Voters’

Elections Department Sends Out Wrong Ballots to ‘Undetermined Number of Voters’

Almost two years after Kalispell, Montana, approved new ward and voting precinct boundaries, the Flathead County Elections Department used the old ones in mailing out absentee ballots for Tuesday’s elections.

Elections officials made the announcement Tuesday as balloting was taking place,  according to the Flathead Beacon, which said the issue impacted an “as-yet undetermined number of voters.”

“The Flathead County Election Office acknowledges this oversight raises concerns regarding a safe and accurate election process,” a news release from Flathead County Public Information Officer Kim Grieser said.

“The elections department is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and is unwaveringly committed to ensuring error-free execution of our elections,” the release said.

“Going forward, the County will continue to review, check, and double-check procedures. We will implement updates to prevent a recurrence of this incident. This serves as a poignant reminder of the paramount importance of maintaining the public’s trust in our electoral system and upholding the fundamental principles of fairness and transparency in all we do,” the statement continued.

The problem impacted the Kalispell city election for Wards 1, 2 and 3, which had contested races. The candidate in Ward 4 ran unopposed.

Election Manager Adrienne Chmelik said officials discovered the mistake Friday, and officials spent some time over the weekend trying to learn how many voters were affected.

“In late 2021, Kalispell changed its ward boundaries, and that didn’t get plugged into our precinct maps. So when we loaded the new ward boundaries, some voters didn’t get loaded into their correct wards. We’re working with our GIS department to layer in different maps, but it’s going to take time,” she said.

Chmelik said any official action on Tuesday’s balloting will depend on whether anyone contests the results.

“We are doing out best to figure out what happened,” Chmelik said.

“I don’t think the county has been in this position before nor have we, so can’t really say what we will do. But right now, we’re focused on tallying every vote,” she said.

According to the Daily Interlake, in Ward 1, Kari Sue Gabriel led Wes Walker 482-399 after the votes were tallied Tuesday night. In District 2, Sam Nunnally led Gabriel Dillon 529-421, and in Ward 3, Ryan Hunter led Kevin Aurich 605-234.

“I think it’s really important that people understand that we are absolutely committed to the process of this being right, whatever that means as we move forward, and we understand more about the process of the election,” Flathead County Election Administrator Debbie Pierson said, according to KPAX-TV.

Pierson defended the integrity of the election process.

“I think it’s critically important that people understand this isn’t fraudulent. I hear that word used a lot and used incorrectly. There is nothing fraudulent about what happened in this process,” she said.

“It clearly was an administrative error related to data entry or data entry not happening. So I just want to ensure people that elections are safe; we will walk this process out.”

In other election glitches, one Pennsylvania county saw a voting machine problem in which votes cast for one candidate in a judicial contest were logged as being cast for the other candidate.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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