Elections Department Sends Out Wrong Ballots to 'Undetermined Number' of People

Officials in a Montana county said an unknown number of wrong ballots were sent out recently.
Elections Department Sends Out Wrong Ballots to 'Undetermined Number' of People
Election workers prepare vote-by-mail ballots at the Los Angeles County Registrar vote-by-mail operation center in City of Industry, California, on November 4, 2022. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

The elections department in Flathead County, Montana, said that it sent out the wrong number of ballots to an unknown number of voters during Tuesday's election.

Officials in the county said that voters in the Nov. 7 municipal elections in Kalispell got the wrong ballots, according to a news release obtained by the Flathead Beacon. They blamed the error on a clerical mistake.

“The Flathead County Election Office acknowledges this oversight raises concerns regarding a safe and accurate election process,” Flathead County Public Information Officer Kim Grieser said in the release. “The elections department is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and is unwaveringly committed to ensuring error-free execution of our elections.”

Ms. Grieser added that the county will now "review, check, and double-check procedures," saying it will initiate updates to prevent a similar issue. The error only impacted the election in Kalispell city in which several candidates are running for three council seats.

"This serves as a poignant reminder of the paramount importance of maintaining the public’s trust in our electoral system and upholding the fundamental principles of fairness and transparency in all we do," the release said.

The county's election chief, Adrienne Chmelik, told the paper on Tuesday that officials discovered the problem last week and attempted to determine the cause of the problem and how many voters were impacted. However, that information was not disclosed in the report, and officials said that they couldn't do anything after the ballots were already mailed out.

“In late 2021, Kalispell changed its ward boundaries and that didn’t get plugged into our precinct maps,” Ms. Chmelik said. “So when we loaded the new ward boundaries, some voters didn’t get loaded into their correct wards."

“We are doing ou[r] best to figure out what happened,” she continued. “I don’t think the county has been in this position before nor have we, so can’t really say what we will do. But right now, we’re focused on tallying every vote.

Another county election official, Debbie Pierson, told KPAX-TV that it is "important that people understand that we are absolutely committed to the process of this being right" before defending the integrity of the election process.

“I think it’s critically important that people understand this isn’t fraudulent. I hear that word used a lot and used incorrectly. There is nothing fraudulent about what happened in this process,” she said. “It clearly was an administrative error related to data entry or data entry not happening. So I just want to ensure people that elections are safe; we will walk this process out.”

The election will now go to the Flathead County Commissioners Board of Canvassers on Nov. 21. Those board members will then decide on whether to accept and certify the election, although it's not clear if any of the city council candidates want to contest the results.

Other 2023 Issues

In Mississippi, there were reports of widespread problems in Hinds County, including claims that precincts ran out of ballots, which left some voters waiting in line for several hours. Notably, Mississippi had a number of statewide elections for Tuesday, including for the governor's seat.

“We’re running ballots as we speak because we’re trying to make sure every voter gets a chance to come out and cast their ballot for the people of their choice,” Hinds County District 5 Election Commissioner Shirley Varando told local media. She blamed the ballot problem on an “unexpectedly large turnout"

The incident drew criticism from officials in Mississippi. State House Rep. Kent McCarty, a Republican, criticized Hinds County officials for the issue.

“What an incredible failure on the part of Hinds County to take care of its voters. We provide a whole twelve hours to vote on Election Day, being without ballots for two minutes, much less two hours, is absolutely inexcusable,” he posted on social media.

In Harris County, Texas, there were also reports of scanner problems at some precincts on Election Day, according to an official.

“The scanner went down ... so people had the choice to either put it in the box to be counted later and a lot of people said, ‘no, I want my ballot secured,’” said Charlotte Lampe, an election judge in Cypress, Texas, reported Click2Houston.

“We spoiled some ballots, took them off the rolls, and said if you want to do that you can go to another location that’s five minutes away,” she added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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