Office of Political Practices Begins Enforcement of LR 129 - news.mt.gov

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Office of Political Practices Begins Enforcement of LR 129

Unauthorized Ballot Collection May Carry a $500 Fine Per Ballot

Wednesday, March 13, 2019/Categories: Commissioner of Political Practices/Tags:

Helena, Mont. – For the first time since LR 129 passed in the November 2018 election, the “Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act” will be enforced with the first elections of 2019. Any authorized ballot collector must now register with a county elections administrator and unauthorized ballot collectors could be assessed a $500 fine for each collected ballot.

With the new law, the first registration forms from ballot collectors are being sent to the Commissioner of Political Practice’s (COPP) office for special district elections. All Montana elections will now comply with the requirements of LR 129.

The COPP, in conjunction with county attorneys, is charged to investigate and enforce the Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act (BIPA). County election administrators are required to have all ballot collectors register their contact information, and each voter’s address for every collected ballot.

Under BIPA, Montanans maintain the right to decide how and when to return their ballot but should be aware of the new ballot collection requirements: 

  1. Any unauthorized person who picks up and delivers another person’s ballot, or a person who drops off ballots without registering with an election administrator, may be assessed a $500 penalty per ballot.
  2. Ballots can be picked up and dropped off only by authorized persons. Authorized persons include people with these relationships to a voter:
    1. Caregiver
    2. Family
    3. Household
    4. Acquaintance
  3. Authorized persons can drop off a maximum of six ballots per election. Any ballots delivered in excess of six ballots may be assessed a $500 penalty per ballot.
  4. A ballot collector who delivers ballots to an election administrator’s office or a designated polling place must fill out a Ballot Collection Registry form and register their name and contact information, along with each voter’s name, mailing address, and the voter’s relationship to the collector. Registry options will be available at ballot drop boxes.
  5. The following groups are excluded from restrictions on ballot collections:
    1. Election officials, and
    2. US postal service workers or other individuals specifically authorized by law to transmit US mail.

“It is our duty to uphold the will of Montana voters and enforce LR 129. Our office is committed to maintaining a transparent process so that Montanans who ask their families, neighbors, and friends to deliver their ballots have their vote counted in a manner that is also efficient for county election officials and upholds the integrity of Montana’s elections and democratic processes,” said Commissioner Jeff Mangan.

The COPP’s office has requested additional funding for a part-time employee to manage and track registry entries.

“The COPP’s office is grateful for the help of county and school election officials in registering Montanans’ information, and the Secretary of State’s office in ensuring the public understands what is legally required to comply with the new law,” said Commissioner Mangan.

More information about the Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act is available at the COPP’s website. The COPP will regularly update these resources.

The mission of the Commissioner of Political Practices is to promote confidence, transparency, and accountability in Montana’s democratic processes. Additional information about campaign finance disclosure requirements are available on the Commissioner of Political Practices’ website.

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