Cory Stapleton

Secretary of State Cory Stapleton

Thom Bridge,thom.bridge@helenair.com

ANACONDA — County elections officials across Montana criticized Secretary of State Corey Stapleton's repeated assertions that voter fraud took place during the May 25 special election.

In turn, Stapleton's office produced a list of about 1,800 ballots cast during the election but were not counted. He asked for an explanation why the ballots were not counted and suggested that ballots submitted with mismatched signatures could raise concern, Montana Public Radio reported.

The clerks have said most of the ballots are rejected because of voter mistakes, not intentional fraud.

Stapleton spoke Thursday to the 56 county election administrators who comprise the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders, at their meeting at Fairmont. He said he no longer feels comfortable conducting elections under the state's current system and wants more study of rejected ballots and election security.

Stapleton added that the state needs to be more focused on voter fraud to prevent it from occurring.

'We've got to acknowledge that if we live in a state that has never ... prosecuted and convicted voter fraud, then we might have a bias toward a system that doesn't want to know that," Stapleton told. "I'm not trying to say that everything is rotted. I've never tried to say that. But what I'm saying is, you can't rule that out."

But during Stapleton's presentation, some clerks questioned his understanding of the system he oversees. They added that his rhetoric weakens the public's confidence in the electoral process.

Clerks also complained about poor communication from Stapleton's office. One said Stapleton's office had never asked the clerks how they could work together until Thursday.

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