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Montana Secretary of State launches site to streamline election law violation reports

Update: Terri McCoy called over the weekend to clarify one issue about the complaints received from the 2010 reporting program. I wrote that 45 submissions lacked enough info for the secretary of state’s office to follow up on. McCoy wanted it to be known that the office did follow up on all of those complaints but found that the majority did not involve any violation of election law.

Montanans have a new way to report violations of election laws, state Secretary of State Linda McCulloch announced Friday in Bozeman.

The Fair Elections Center is an online form citizens can use to report potential law violations in state and federal elections, including activity related to voting and signature gathering for petitions, McCulloch said in a written statement.

“The Fair Elections Center improves the oversight of state and federal elections by creating a simple and centralized procedure for citizens to document their concerns as a formal report,” she said in the statement.

Reports are evaluated by the Secretary of State’s office and forwarded on to county attorneys, county election administrators and other appropriate authorities as needed, said Terri McCoy, spokeswoman for McCulloch’s office.

The secretary of state launched a violation-reporting program in 2010. McCoy said this new site streamlines the old process.

“The website’s really to create a more centralized location,” she said.

McCoy said that the old reporting program drew 68 complaints during its time. Seventeen were forwarded to local authorities, she said. A further 45 submissions lacked enough info for McCulloch’s office to follow up on, and six were sent to the state’s commissioner of political practices.

None were found to be violations of the law, McCoy said. In fact, she said that no one in the secretary of state’s office knows of any violation of election law on record.

“As far as we have found,” she said, “when it comes to state and federal elections our office oversees, there has not been a violation of election law in Montana. We have extremely secure and fair elections.”

So why have a website to record violations when none have happened?

“It further enhances voters’ confidence in Montana elections and increases our transparency, which is always a good thing,” McCoy said.

Plus, she said, the website didn’t cost anything. It was built in-house by the secretary of state’s staff and used existing software.