A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT GENERALLY REVISING ELECTION LAWS; ELIMINATING THE OPTION TO REGISTER TO RECEIVE ABSENTEE BALLOTS AT SUBSEQUENT ELECTIONS; REQUIRING THAT ABSENTEE BALLOTS BE PROVIDED ONLY TO ELECTORS AT THEIR COUNTY RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS; ELIMINATING IN-PERSON ABSENTEE VOTING; REVISING THE TIME WHEN ABSENTEE BALLOTS MUST BE RECEIVED ON ELECTION DAY; REVISING WHEN BALLOTS MUST BE RECEIVED IN A MAIL BALLOT ELECTION; REVISING THE TIME WHEN FEDERAL WRITE-IN ABSENTEE BALLOTS AND MILITARY-OVERSEAS BALLOTS MUST BE RECEIVED; AMENDING SECTIONS 13-1-210, 13-2-220, 13-3-213, 13-12-102, 13-13-201, 13-13-204, 13-13-211, 13-13-212, 13-13-213, 13-13-232, 13-13-233, 13-13-245, 13-13-246, 13-15-201, 13-19-106, 13-21-206, AND 13-21-226, MCA; and REPEALING SECTIONS 13-13-222 AND 13-21-223, MCA."
"13-1-210. Standard application form for voter registration and absentee ballot requests. (1) The secretary of state shall establish by rule a standard application form, to be used by each election administrator, that allows an individual to apply for voter registration and to request to be added to the an absentee ballot list in order to receive ballots for subsequent elections.
I understand that in order to continue to receive an absentee ballot, I must complete, sign, and return a confirmation form that will be mailed to me in January of every even-numbered year at my county residential address that I used to register."
"13-2-220. Maintenance of active and inactive voter registration lists for elections -- rules by secretary of state. (1) The rules adopted by the secretary of state under 13-2-108 must include the following procedures, at least one of which an election administrator shall follow in every odd-numbered year:
(a) compare the entire list of registered electors against the national change of address files and provide appropriate confirmation notice to those individuals whose addresses have apparently changed;
(b) mail a nonforwardable, first-class, "return if undeliverable--address correction requested" notice to all registered electors of each jurisdiction to confirm their addresses and provide the appropriate confirmation notice to those individuals who return the notices;
(c) mail a targeted mailing to electors who failed to vote in the preceding federal general election, applicants who failed to provide required information on registration forms, and provisionally registered electors by:
(ii) comparing the list of nonvoters against the national change of address files, followed by the appropriate confirmation notices to those electors who appear to have moved from their addresses of record;
(2) An individual who submits an application for an absentee ballot for a federal general election or who completes and returns the address confirmation notice specified in 13-13-212(4) during the calendar year in which a federal general election is held is not subject to the procedure in subsection (1)(c) unless the individual's ballot for a federal general election is returned as undeliverable and the election administrator is not able to contact the elector through the most expedient means available to resolve the issue.
(3)(2) Any notices returned as undeliverable to the election administrator or any notices to which the elector fails to respond after the election administrator uses the procedures provided in subsection (1) must be followed within 30 days by an appropriate confirmation notice that is a forwardable, first-class, postage-paid, self-addressed, return notice. If the elector fails to respond within 30 days of the final confirmation notice, after the 30th day, the election administrator shall move the elector to the inactive list.
"13-3-213. Alternative means for casting ballot. (1) The election administrator shall provide individuals with disabilities and elderly individuals an alternative means for casting a ballot on election day if they are assigned to an inaccessible polling place. These alternative means for casting a ballot include:
(4) The name of an elector who has been assigned to vote in a precinct other than the precinct in which the person is registered, as provided in subsection (2), must be printed on a special addendum to the precinct register in a form prescribed by the secretary of state."
"13-12-102. Items to be furnished by election administrators. The election administrators shall deliver to each polling place or to the chief election judge for a polling place all supplies necessary to conduct the election at that polling place. If the blank ballots for the polling place are delivered before noon of the day before the election, the election administrator shall retain sufficient ballots to supply electors requesting absentee ballots. The election administrator shall write in the pollbook for that polling place, after the numbers of the ballots retained, "reserved for absentee ballots"."
(3) Except as provided in 13-21-206 and 13-21-226, in order for the ballot to be counted, each elector shall return it in a manner that ensures the ballot is received prior to 8 p.m. 6 p.m. on election day.
(4) A provisionally registered elector may also enclose in the outer signature envelope a copy of the elector's photo identification showing the elector's name. The photo identification may be but is not limited to a valid driver's license, a school district or postsecondary education photo identification, or a tribal photo identification. If the provisionally registered elector does not enclose a photo identification, the elector may enclose a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, notice of confirmation of voter registration issued pursuant to 13-2-207, government check, or other government document that shows the elector's name and current address."
"13-13-204. Authority to vote in person -- printing error or ballot destroyed -- replacement ballot -- effect of absentee elector's death. (1) (a) If an elector has received but not voted an absentee ballot and the absentee ballot contains printing errors or omissions, the elector may receive a replacement or corrected ballot.
(3) A request for a replacement ballot submitted to the election administrator must be made on a form prescribed by the secretary of state and must be made in person, by regular or electronic mail, or by facsimile no later than 8 p.m. on 7 days before election day.
(4) Upon receiving a request for a replacement ballot pursuant to subsection (3), the election administrator shall mark the original issued ballot as void in the statewide voter registration system and issue a replacement regular ballot to the elector.
(6) If an elector votes by absentee ballot and the ballot has been mailed to or received by the election administrator but the elector dies between the time of balloting and election day, the deceased elector's ballot must be counted."
"13-13-211. Time period for application. (1) Except as provided in 13-13-222, 13-21-223, and subsection (2) of this section, an application for an absentee ballot must be made any time during the current election year before noon on the seventh day before the election.
(2) A qualified elector who is prevented from voting at the polls as a result of illness or health emergency occurring between 5 p.m. of the Friday preceding the election and before the close of polls 6 p.m. on election day may request to vote by absentee ballot as provided in 13-13-212(2).
"13-13-212. Application for absentee ballot -- special provisions -- absentee ballot list for subsequent elections. (1) (a) Except as provided in subsection (1)(b), an elector may apply for an absentee ballot by using a standard application form provided by rule by the secretary of state pursuant to 13-1-210 or by making a written request, which must include the applicant's birth date and must be signed by the applicant. The request must be submitted to the election administrator of the applicant's county of residence within the time period specified in 13-13-211. The elector shall apply in person at the local election office and submit to the election administrator a valid photo identification, birth date, and county address.
(b) A person who holds a power of attorney from a uniformed-service voter may apply for an absentee ballot for that election on behalf of the uniformed-service voter. The applicant shall provide a copy of the power of attorney authorizing the request for an absentee ballot along with the application.
(2) (a) If an elector requests an absentee ballot because of a sudden illness or health emergency, the application for an absentee ballot may be made by written request signed by the elector at the time that the ballot is delivered in person by the absentee election board or by an authorized election official as provided in 13-13-225.
(b) The elector may request by telephone, facsimile transmission, or other means to have a ballot and application personally delivered by the absentee election board or by an authorized election official at the elector's place of confinement, hospitalization, or residence within the county.
(3) An elector may at any time request to be mailed an absentee ballot for each subsequent election in which the elector is eligible to vote as long as the elector remains qualified to vote and resides at the address provided in the initial application. The request may be made when the individual applies for voter registration using the standard application form provided for in 13-1-210.
(4) (a) An elector who has requested to be on the absentee ballot list and who has not filed a change of address with the U.S. postal service must continue to receive an absentee ballot for each subsequent election.
(b) (i) The election administrator shall biennially mail a forwardable address confirmation form to each elector who is listed in the national change of address system of the U.S. postal service as having changed the elector's address.
(ii) The address confirmation form must request the elector's driver's license number or the last four digits of the elector's social security number. The address confirmation form must include an e-mail address for the election administrator that can be used by the elector to confirm that the elector wishes to continue to receive an absentee ballot and to provide the requested information. The address confirmation form must be mailed in January of every even-numbered year. The address confirmation form is for elections to be held between February 1 following the mailing through January of the next even-numbered year.
(iv) If the elector is providing confirmation using the address confirmation form, the elector shall sign the form, indicate the address to which the absentee ballot should be sent, provide the elector's driver's license number or the last four digits of the elector's social security number, and return the form to the election administrator.
(vii) If the form is not completed and returned or if the elector does not respond using the options provided in subsection (4)(b)(v), the election administrator shall remove the elector from the absentee ballot list.
"13-13-213. Transmission of application to election administrator -- delivery Verification of signature -- delivery of ballot. (1) All absentee ballot application forms must be addressed to the appropriate county election office.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (4), the elector may mail the signed application directly to the election administrator or deliver the application in person to the election administrator. An agent designated pursuant to 13-1-116 or a third party may collect the elector's application and forward it to the election administrator.
(3)(1) (a) The election administrator shall compare the signature on the application with the applicant's signature on the registration form or the agent's signature on the agent designation form. If convinced that the individual making the application is the same as the one whose name appears on the registration form or the agent designation form, the election administrator shall deliver the ballot to the elector in person or as otherwise provided in 13-13-214, subject to 13-13-205.
(b) If no signature is provided or the election administrator is not convinced that the individual signing the application is the same person whose name appears on the registration form or agent designation form, the election administrator shall notify the elector as provided in 13-13-245.
(4)(2) In lieu of the requirement provided in subsection (2), an An elector who requests an absentee ballot pursuant to 13-13-212(2) may return the application to the absentee election board or an authorized election official. Upon receipt of the application, the absentee election board or authorized election official shall examine the signatures on the application and a copy of the voting registration form or agent designation form to be provided by the election administrator. If the absentee election board or an authorized election official believes that the applicant is the same person as the one whose name appears on the registration form or agent designation form, the absentee election board or authorized election official shall provide a ballot to the elector when the ballot is available pursuant to 13-13-205."
"13-13-232. Delivery of ballots and secrecy envelopes to election judges -- ballots to be rejected. (1) If an absentee ballot is received prior to delivery of the official ballots to the election judges, the election administrator shall process it according to 13-13-241 and then, unless the early preparation process in 13-13-241(7) was followed, deliver the unopened secrecy envelope to the judges at the same time that the ballots are delivered.
(2) If an absentee ballot is received after the official ballots are delivered to the election judges but prior to the close of the polls deadline provided in 13-13-201(3), the election administrator shall process it according to 13-13-241 and shall then immediately deliver the unopened secrecy envelope to the judges.
(3) If the election administrator receives an absentee ballot for which an application or request was not made or received as required by this part, 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 endorsed in this manner must be handled in the same manner as provided in 13-15-108(1)."
"13-13-233. Issuing and recording absentee ballots -- certificate to election judges. (1) Absentee ballots must be official numbered paper ballots beginning with ballot number 1 and following consecutively according to the number of applications for absentee ballots.
(a) the ballot numbers of the absentee ballots mailed or transmitted pursuant to 13-13-214, 13-21-106(3)(a), and 13-21-224, or delivered pursuant to 13-13-229, or marked in person pursuant to 13-13-222;
"13-13-245. Notice to elector -- opportunity to resolve questions. (1) As soon as possible after receipt of an elector's absentee ballot application or signature envelope, the election administrator shall give notice to the elector by the most expedient method available if the election administrator determines that:
(a) by mail, facsimile, electronic means, or in person, resolve the issue that resulted in the ballot being handled as a provisional ballot, confirm the validity of the ballot, or verify the elector's or agent's signature or provide a signature, after proof of identification, by affirming that the signature is in fact the elector's, by completing a new registration form containing the elector's current signature, or by providing a new agent designation form; or
"13-13-246. Electronic ballots for disabled persons -- procedures -- definition -- rulemaking. (1) (a) Upon a written or an in-person request from a legally registered or provisionally registered elector with a disability, an election administrator shall provide the elector with an electronic ballot.
(2) (a) After receiving a request and verifying that the elector is legally registered or provisionally registered, the election administrator shall provide to the elector an electronic ballot, instructions for completing the ballot, a secrecy envelope, and a transmittal cover sheet that includes an elector affirmation. If the elector is provisionally registered, the election administrator shall include instructions about what information the elector shall include with the voted ballot pursuant to 13-13-201(4) elector shall enclose in the outer signature envelope a copy of the elector's photo identification showing the elector's name. The photo identification may include but is not limited to a valid driver's license, a school district or postsecondary education photo identification, or a tribal photo identification. If the provisionally registered elector does not enclose a copy of the elector's photo identification, the elector may enclose a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, notice of confirmation of voter registration issued pursuant to 13-2-207, government check, or other government document that shows the elector's name and current address.
(c) After voting the ballot, the elector shall print the ballot, place it in the secrecy envelope, sign the affirmation, including by fingerprint, mark, or agent pursuant to 13-1-116, or provide a driver's license number or the last four digits of the elector's social security number. If the elector is provisionally registered, the elector shall also return sufficient voter identification and eligibility information to allow the election administrator to determine pursuant to rules adopted under 13-2-109 that the elector is legally registered. The elector shall return the voted ballot and affirmation in a manner that ensures both are received by 8 p.m. on election day.
(d) An elector may return the voted ballot and affirmation in the regular mail provided they are received at the office of the election administrator by 8 p.m. on election day. A valid ballot must be counted if it is received at the office of the election administrator by 8 p.m. on election day.
(3) After receiving a ballot and secrecy envelope and if the validity of the ballot is confirmed pursuant to 13-13-241, the election administrator shall log the receipt of the ballot and process it as required in Title 13, chapter 13. If the ballot is rejected, the election administrator shall notify the elector pursuant to 13-13-245.
(4) (a) When performing the procedures prescribed in 13-13-241(7) to open secrecy envelopes, an election official shall place in a secure absentee ballot envelope any ballot returned pursuant to this section that requires transcription. No sooner than the time provided in 13-13-241(7), the election administrator shall transcribe the returned ballots using the procedure prescribed below and in accordance with any rules established by the secretary of state to ensure the security of the ballots and the secrecy of the votes.
"13-15-201. Preparation for count -- absentee ballot count procedures. (1) Subject to 13-10-311, to prepare for a count of ballots, the counting board or, if appointed, the absentee counting board shall take ballots out of the box to determine whether each ballot is single.
(3) If the board cannot reconcile the total number of ballots with the pollbook, the board shall submit to the election administrator a written report stating how many ballots were missing or in excess and any reason of which they are aware for the discrepancy. Each judge on the board shall sign the report.
(4) A ballot that is not marked as official is void and may not be counted unless all judges on the board agree that the marking is missing because of an error by election officials, in which case the ballot must be marked "unmarked by error" on the back and must be initialed by all judges.
(5) If two or more ballots are folded or stuck together to look like a single ballot, they must be laid aside until the count is complete. The counting board shall compare the count with the pollbooks, and if a majority believes that the ballots folded together were marked by one elector, the ballots must be rejected and handled as provided in 13-15-108, otherwise they must be counted.
(ii) the signature envelope contains ballots from the same household, each ballot is in its own secrecy envelope, and the signature envelope contains a valid signature for each elector who has returned a ballot."
(1) Subject to 13-12-202, official mail ballots must be prepared and all other initial procedures followed as provided by law, except that mail ballots must be paper ballots and are not required to have stubs.
(3) Each signature envelope must contain a form that is the same as the form for absentee ballot signature envelopes and that is prescribed by the secretary of state for the elector to verify the accuracy of the elector's address or notify the election administrator of the elector's correct mailing address and to return the corrected address with the voted ballot in the manner provided by 13-19-306.
(5) (a) The elector shall then place the secrecy envelope containing the elector's ballot in a signature envelope and mail it or deliver it in person to a place of deposit designated by the election administrator.
(6) Election officials shall first qualify the voted ballot by examining the signature envelope to determine whether it is submitted by a qualified elector who has not previously voted in the election.
(7) If the voted ballot qualifies and is otherwise valid, officials shall then open the signature envelope and remove the secrecy envelope, which must be deposited unopened in an official ballot box pursuant to the timeline specified in 13-13-241(7).
"13-21-226. Receipt of voted ballot. (1) A valid military-overseas ballot must be counted if it is received by 8 6 p.m. on election day or by 5 p.m. on the day after election day if transmitted electronically by 8 p.m. on election day.
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Prepared by Montana Legislative Services