The University of Montana’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, in conjunction with the Missoula County Elections office recently asked nearly 700 Missoula County residents, “Are you confident Missoula County is free of voter fraud?”

Eighty-nine percent of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with this statement. In addition, 79% are confident in Missoula County’s vote-by-mail process.

KGVO spoke to Missoula Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman about the survey.

“The great part about partnering with Big Sky polls on this was that we were able to go forward and work directly with them to help make sure that we're getting scientific data,” said Seaman. “We're not just getting that anecdotal data of ‘how did your experience go today’, but really working to make sure that we're getting good data with standard deviation of sample size that helps us make good decisions that serve voters in the future.”

Seaman said he worked with a similar survey several years ago.

“When I first started in 2015, Rebecca Connors, the current election administrator, was completing a survey from 2015,” he said. “It was presented at the beginning of January in 2016, and it was about voters experiencing confidence in the process, what went well, things to improve and what they'd like to see. I thought that that was such a great idea to help reach out to voters, listen to them, hear what they're looking at, and see how we can improve services for them.”

Seaman provided the basic questions asked of those participating in the survey.

“The main questions that we asked voters were about their confidence in the process,” he said. “Do you feel like your vote counted? Do you feel that the system is free of fraud? Do you feel like vote by mail works? And in general, we saw that a vast majority of voters in Missoula County are confident in the process.”

Seaman said even though a majority of Montanans use the absentee ballot there will still be polling places available to those who desire to use them. He said some efforts need to be made to provide more convenient access to remote areas.

“The polling places we can work with the Board of County Commissioners on to help update them,” he said. “We could look at consolidation or putting them together, but we want to make sure that they're still accessible. So we're taking into account not only the number of voters but also the distance that they need to travel. Because we don't want to have a voter who needs to go from Condon all the way down into Seeley Lake for every election to vote. We want to make sure that if it's a snowy road in November, they're safe and they can go to a community polling place.”

A presentation of the study’s full results will be presented from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, for the public and Missoula County Elections Advisory Committee.


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