Elections and Government Services Administrative Rules of Montana Business Services Notary and Certification Records and Information Management

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 22, 2016
CONTACT: Emily Dean, (406) 444-2807

Statement from Secretary of State Linda McCulloch Regarding U.S. House of Representatives Libertarian Candidate Vacancy

HELENA, MT- On Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s office became aware of the death of U.S. House of Representatives candidate, Mike Fellows. As state statute (13-10-327) prescribes, the Libertarian Party will have five days after notification by the Secretary of State to replace a candidate. The Libertarian Party was notified of the vacancy on Tuesday, September 20, 2016.

The Libertarian Party has filed a Certificate of Appointment for Rick Breckenridge to replace Mike Fellows for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

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Please see Election Advisory #01-16 that was sent to counties this afternoon below:

SECRETARY OF STATE LINDA McCULLOCH ELECTION ADVISORY  #01-16
Issued:  September 22, 2016

  TOPIC:  2016 General Election Ballot Correction Due to Death of Candidate

AUTHORITY:

This election advisory is issued under the Secretary of State’s authority to provide uniformity in the election process pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. §§ 13-1-201 and 13-1-202(1)(c).

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this advisory is to provide election administrators with guidance on the processes and procedures to follow to correct the 2016 general election ballots due to the death of Mike Fellows, Libertarian candidate for the office of United States Representative.

ADVICE:
Pursuant to 13-10-327 Montana Code Annotated, if a candidate for partisan office dies less than 85 days before the general election, the affected political party shall appoint a candidate within 5 days after being notified of the vacancy.  The Secretary of State notified the Libertarian Party of the vacancy on September 20. The deadline to provide the name of a replacement candidate is 5:00 p.m. on Monday, September 26.  

According to Montana law (13-12-204 MCA), if an appointment has been made to replace a candidate after the ballots have been prepared but before the election, the election administrator may:

  1. correct the ballot in a manner consistent with rules adopted under 13-12-202;
  2. have the entire ballot redone; or
  3. have a separate ballot prepared only for the office for which the new candidate is a candidate.

After consulting with the ballot layout and coding vendor for voting systems used by Montana counties, and with the Secretary of State’s advisory council (METAC), and after carefully researching options, our guidance is as follows:

  1. This office will certify the name of the replacement candidate for the ballot as soon as the paperwork is filed and the filing fee is paid and a certification, for this race only, will be emailed and faxed to each election administrator.
  2. Ballots should be reprinted in their entirety, consistent with 13-12-204 MCA.  After much consideration, this appears to be the option that will provide for the accuracy of the election, as well as provide the least amount of disruption to the voters of Montana, and fair treatment of the candidates affected.
  3. Counties are instructed to immediately notify their local printer if one is used, and to provide them with the name of the replacement candidate.
  4. There will be an expedited process for the replacement of candidate Fellows’ name on the ballot.  Unlike if the name of a candidate were being completely removed from a race, no layout or rotation changes will need to be made. 
  5. Because the race impacted is one for a federal office, and because voters covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) have the right to an accurate and complete ballot, as soon as counties receive and review the corrected PDF ballots, counties will need to send these corrected PDF ballots to voters covered under UOCAVA   To make sure that voters covered under UOCAVA are as minimally impacted as possible, the deadline to receive voted ballots back from UOCAVA voters may be extended.

    A Notice (included at the end of this guidance) must be sent with each PDF ballot mailed to a UOCAVA voter who requested to receive their ballot via mail, notifying the voter that they can request a regular ballot be sent to them, and notifying them that you will accept whichever voted ballot you receive back first. (Counties may replace soselections@mt.gov on the notice with their office email address if preferred.) Ballots sent to voters who requested to receive their ballot via email are always in PDF format and will not need to include the notice.

    Counties are instructed to do outreach to voters covered under UOCAVA to inform them of the delay in sending ballots, and to alert them to the option to receive a ballot via the Electronic Absentee System and/or to the option to return their marked ballot to your office by expedited means such as via email or fax.  Every effort should be made to communicate the options available to voters covered under UOCAVA.

    Counties may send ballots to UOCAVA overseas voters by Express mail.
  6. Careful testing of ballots and vote tabulating equipment is always important, and is critical for an election when changes are made to ballots and to media coding.  Counties are instructed to thoroughly test coded media as soon as it is received to ensure accuracy.
  7. Incorrect ballots, if already received from printer, must be immediately shredded, or must be securely stored until such time as shredding can take place, in such a way as to ensure that they cannot be mixed up with the corrected ballots.
  8. Guidance for ballots that were sent to voters covered under UOCAVA before the death of the candidate and subsequent reprinting of ballots will be sent in a separate communication.

NOTICE TO VOTERS COVERED UNDER THE UNIFORMED AND OVERSEAS CITIZEN ABSENTEE VOTING ACT (UOCAVA):  The ballot enclosed is an accurate precinct ballot for you, and is a PDF printed version of the regular paper ballot.  Due to the untimely and unfortunate death of a candidate, Montana’s ballots are being reprinted.  In order to get ballots sent to voters like you who are covered under UOCAVA as quickly as possible to ensure voters have time to receive, vote and return the ballots, we are sending the enclosed PDF version which you can vote and return to this office.  If you would prefer to have a regular paper ballot sent to you when they are ready, please let us know at soselections@mt.gov.  We can only accept one voted ballot from a voter, so we will accept the first voted ballot that is received in our office.  Please note that voters covered under UOCAVA may alternatively vote an electronic ballot by accessing the Electronic Absentee System at www.vote4montana.us, and may return that saved PDF via email.