Senate Bill No. 311
Introduced By _______________________________________________________________________________
A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act providing for secrecy for absentee ballots; and amending sections 13-13-201, 13-13-214, 13-13-221, 13-13-225, 13-13-229, 13-13-231, 13-13-232, 13-13-241, and 13-15-201, MCA."
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:
Section 1. Section 13-13-201, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-201. Voting by absentee ballot -- qualifications -- procedures. (1) A qualified registered elector is entitled to vote by absentee ballot, as provided in this part, if the elector:
(1)(a) expects to be absent from the county or precinct and unable to vote in person at the time of holding the election; (2)(b) is physically incapacitated and unable to go to the polls on election day; (3)(c) suffers from chronic illness or general ill health; or (4)(d) is prevented from voting at the polls as a result of an illness or health emergency occurring between 5 p.m. on the
Friday preceding the election and noon on election day. Such The health emergency must arise from unforeseen
circumstances that require the elector to seek health care or medical assistance.
(2) The elector may vote by:
(a) marking the ballot in the manner specified;
(b) removing the stub end;
(c) placing the marked ballot in the secrecy envelope, free of any identifying marks;
(d) placing the stub and the secrecy envelope containing one ballot for each election being held in the return and verification envelope;
(e) executing the affidavit printed on the return and verification envelope; and
(f) returning the return and verification envelope with the stub and the secrecy envelope containing the ballot or ballots enclosed, as provided in 13-13-221."
Section 2. Section 13-13-214, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-214. Mailing ballot to elector. (1) (a) Except as provided in 13-13-213 and in subsection (1)(b) of this section, as soon as the official ballots are printed, the election administrator shall send by mail, postage prepaid, to each elector from whom the election administrator has received a valid application whatever official ballots are necessary. Ballots must be sent immediately to electors submitting valid requests after the official ballots are printed.
(b) The election administrator may deliver a ballot in person to an individual other than the elector if:
(i) the elector has designated the individual, either by a signed letter or by making the designation on the application form in a manner prescribed by the secretary of state;
(ii) the individual taking delivery of the ballot on behalf of the elector verifies, by signature, receipt of the ballot;
(iii) the election administrator believes that the individual receiving the ballot is the designated person; and
(iv) the designated person has not previously picked up ballots for four other electors.
(2) The election administrator shall enclose with the ballots:
(a) a secrecy envelope, free of any marks that would identify the voter; and
(b) a self-addressed envelope for the return of the ballots. An affirmation in the form prescribed by the secretary of state must be printed on the back of the envelope.
(3) The election administrator shall stamp the ballots provided to an absentee elector as provided in 13-13-116.
(4) Both the envelope in which the ballot is mailed to an elector in the United States service and the return envelope must have printed across the face the information and graphics and be of the color prescribed by the secretary of state consistent with the regulations established by the federal election commission, the U.S. postal service, or other federal agency.
(5) If the ballots sent to the elector are for a primary election, the election administrator shall enclose an extra envelope marked "For Unvoted Party Ballot(s)". This envelope may not be numbered or marked in any way so that it can be identified as being used by any one elector.
(6) Instructions for voting must be enclosed with the ballots. Instructions for primary elections must include use of the envelope for unvoted ballots. The instructions must include information concerning the type or types of writing instruments that may be used to mark the absentee ballot. The instructions must include information regarding use of the secrecy envelope, use of the return and verification envelope, and detaching the stub and returning it in the return and verification envelope with the secrecy envelope. The election administrator shall include a voter information pamphlet with the instructions if:
(a) a statewide ballot issue appears on the ballot mailed to the elector;
(b) the elector is out of the state or will be out of the state at the time of the election; and
(c) the elector requests a voter information pamphlet.
(7) The return envelope must be self-addressed to the election administrator."
Section 3. Section 13-13-221, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-221. Marking and affirming ballot -- use of secrecy and return envelopes. (1) After the elector marks
elector's ballots, he the elector shall fold them so that the vote is concealed and so that the official stamp is visible and place
the ballots in the secrecy envelope.
(2) The stubs
shall may be left attached and the ballots should be folded so that the stubs can be detached without revealing
the vote, and the elector shall place the ballots in the return envelope, or the elector may detach the stubs and place the
ballots in the secrecy envelope and place the stubs and the secrecy envelope in the return verification envelope. (2)(3) The elector shall place the ballots with the stubs attached in the return envelope or place the stubs and the secrecy
envelope in the return envelope addressed to the election administrator and seal it securely. If the ballots are for a primary
election, the party ballot or ballots not voted shall must be placed in the envelope marked for that purpose and enclosed in
the outer return envelope with the voted ballots as provided in subsection (2). (3)(4) The elector shall complete and sign the affirmation on the envelope. (4)(5) The elector shall mail the envelope, postage prepaid, or deliver it to the election administrator or the special absentee
Section 4. Section 13-13-225, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-225. Special absentee election boards -- members -- appointment. (1) The election administrator shall
designate and appoint a number of special absentee election boards as needed to serve in various places to deliver ballots to
electors who are entitled to vote by absentee ballot as a result of illness or health emergency under 13-13-201
(2) In a partisan election, each special absentee election board shall consist of two members, one from each of the two
political parties receiving the highest votes in the state during the last preceding general election. Board members
shall reside in the county in which they serve.
No A member of a special absentee election board may not be a candidate or a spouse, ascendant, descendant, brother,
or sister of a candidate or of a candidate's spouse or the spouse of any one of these if the candidate's name appears on a
ballot in the county."
Section 5. Section 13-13-229, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-229. Voting performed before
the special absentee election board. (1) As provided in 13-13-201 (4), a qualified
elector who becomes ill or is prevented from voting at the polls because of a health emergency may vote by absentee ballot.
Pursuant to 13-13-212(3), such the elector may request that a special absentee election board personally deliver a ballot to
him the elector.
(2) The manner and procedure of voting by use of an absentee ballot under this section must be the same as provided in
13-13-221, except that the elector
must shall hand the marked ballot in the sealed return envelope to the special absentee
election board, and the board must shall deliver the sealed return envelope to the election administrator or to the election
judges of the precinct in which the elector is registered.
(3) An absentee ballot cast by a qualified elector pursuant to this section may not be rejected by the election administrator if the ballot was in the possession of the board before the time designated for the closing of the polls.
(4) An elector who needs assistance in marking
his the elector's ballot because of physical incapacity or inability to read or
write may receive assistance from the special absentee election board appointed to personally deliver the ballot. Any such
assistance given an elector pursuant to this section must be provided in substantially the same manner as required in
Section 6. Section 13-13-231, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-231. Disposition of marked ballot upon receipt by election administrator. (1) Upon receipt of the voted absentee ballot, the election administrator shall immediately attach the elector's application to the unopened return envelope and mark the precinct number for delivery.
(2) The election administrator shall safely keep the absentee ballots in
his the election administrator's office until delivered
by him the election administrator to the election judges."
Section 7. Section 13-13-232, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-232. Delivery of ballots, secrecy envelopes, and return envelopes to election judges -- ballots to be rejected. (1) If the absentee ballot is received prior to delivery of the official ballots to the election judges, the election administrator shall deliver the unopened return envelope to the judges at the same time that the ballots are delivered. The return envelopes must be opened and the ballots processed according to the procedures described in 13-13-241.
(2) If absentee ballots are received after the ballots are delivered to the election judges but prior to the close of the polls, the election administrator shall immediately deliver the unopened return envelopes to the judges. The return envelopes must be opened and the ballots processed according to the procedures described in 13-13-241.
(3) If the election administrator receives an absentee ballot for which an application or request was not received as required
, or if an absentee ballot is received by the election administrator after the close of the polls and was not
issued to an elector pursuant to 13-13-201 (4)(1)(d), the election administrator shall endorse upon the elector's envelope the
date and exact time of receipt and the words "to be rejected". Absentee ballots so endorsed shall in this manner must be
retained by the election administrator and placed with the proper records when they are returned to him the election
Section 8. Section 13-13-241, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-13-241. Examination of absentee ballot return envelopes and affirmations while polls open -- deposit of absentee and unvoted ballots. (1) While the polls are open, the election judges may compare the signature of the elector on the absentee ballot request and affirmation. If they find that the signatures correspond, that the affirmation is sufficient, and that the absentee elector is qualified, they may open the absentee ballot return envelope.
(2) If the absentee ballot does not meet the requirements specified in subsection (1), it must be rejected. The election judges, without opening the absentee ballot return envelope, shall mark across it the reason for rejection and a majority of the judges shall sign their initials. Unopened rejected absentee ballot return envelopes must be handled in the same manner as provided for rejected ballots in 13-13-243.
(3) After opening the absentee ballot return envelope and without opening the secrecy envelope and permitting the ballot to be examined, the election judges shall ascertain whether the stubs are enclosed in the return envelope and whether the numbers correspond to the numbers in the certificate of the election administrator. If so, they shall deposit the stubs in the proper box and place the secrecy envelope in the proper ballot box. In a primary election, the unvoted ballots must be deposited in the unvoted ballot box without being removed from their enclosure envelopes.
(3)(4) After opening the absentee ballot return envelope and if the ballot has not been placed in the secrecy envelope,
without unfolding the ballots ballot or permitting them it to be examined, the election judges shall ascertain whether the
stubs are attached or enclosed and whether the numbers correspond to the numbers in the certificate of the election
administrator. If so, they shall detach the stubs and deposit the stubs and ballots in the proper ballot boxes. In a primary
election, the unvoted ballots must be deposited in the unvoted ballot box without being removed from their enclosure
envelope. in the proper box. The election judge shall place the ballot in the secrecy envelope and place the secrecy
envelope in the proper ballot box. (4)(5) If upon opening the absentee ballot return envelope it is found that the number does not correspond to the number on
the certificate of the election administrator or that the stub is not enclosed in the return envelope or is not attached to a
ballot that was not placed in the secrecy envelope, the ballot must be rejected. The reason for rejection must be marked on
the back of the ballot or ballots, and the statement must be initialed by a majority of the election judges."
Section 9. Section 13-15-201, MCA, is amended to read:
"13-15-201. Preparation for count. (1) To begin the count after the close of the polls, the election judges shall take ballots out of the box unopened to determine whether each ballot is single. The election judges shall remove each absentee ballot secrecy envelope and open it to determine whether the ballot for each election is single.
(2) They shall count the ballots to ensure that the number of ballots corresponds with the number of names on the pollbook.
(3) If they cannot reconcile the total number of ballots with the pollbook, they
must shall submit a written report stating
how many ballots were missing or in excess and any reason of which they are aware for the discrepancy. All judges must
shall sign the report.
(4) A ballot
which that is not endorsed by the official stamp is void and may not be counted unless the judges agree that
the stamp is missing because of their error. Such The ballot shall must be marked "unstamped by error" on the back and
must be initialed by all judges.
(5) If two or more ballots are folded together to look like a single ballot, they
shall must be laid aside until the count is
complete. The election judges shall compare the count with the pollbooks, and if a majority believes that the ballots folded
together were voted by one elector, they must be rejected; otherwise they must be counted."