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Full text of "The Help America Vote Act and related election issues : The Office of the Secretary of State"




A Report 

to THE 

Montana 

Legislature 



Performance Audit 



The Help America 

Vote Act and Related 

Elections Issues 

The Office of the 
Secretary of State 



August 2007 



Legislative Audit 
Division 



07P-02 



Legislative Audit 
Committee 

Representatives 

Bill Beck 

Bill Glaser 

Betsy Hands 

Hal Jacobson 

Mike Phillips 

John Sinrud 

Senators 

Joe Balyeat, Vice Chair 

Greg Barkus 

Steve Gallus 

Dave Lewis 

Lynda Moss 

Mitch Tropila 



Audit Staff 

Performance 

Angus Maciver 

Information System 

Nate Tobin 



Fraud Hotline 

Help eliminate fraud, 

waste, and abuse in 

state government. Call 

the Fraud Hotline at: 

(Statewide) 
1-800-222-4446 

(in Helena) 
444-4446 



Performance Audits 

Performance audits conducted by the Legislative Audit Division 
are designed to assess state government operations. From the audit 
worl<, a determination is made as to whether agencies and programs 
are accomplishing their purposes, and whether they can do so 
with greater efficiency and economy. The audit work is conducted 
in accordance with audit standards set forth by the United States 
Government Accountability Office. 

Members of the performance audit staff hold degrees in disciplines 
appropriate to the audit process. Areas of expertise include business 
and public administration, mathematics, statistics, economics, 
political science, criminal justice, computer science, education, and 
biology. 

Performance audits are performed at the request of the Legislative 
Audit Committee which is a bicameral and bipartisan standing 
committee of the Montana Legislature. The committee consists 
of six members of the Senate and six members of the House of 
Representatives. 



Direct comments or inquiries to: 

Legislative Audit Division 

Room 160, State Capitol 

PO Box 201705 

Helena MT 59620-1705 

(406) 444-3122 

Additionally, many reports can be found in electronic format at: 

http://leg.mt.gov/css/audit 



LEGISLATIVE AUDIT DIVISION 



Scott A. Seacat, Legislative Auditor 

Tori Hunthausen, 

Chief Deputy Legislative Auditor 




Deputy Legislative Auditors: 
James Gillett 
Angie Grove 



August 2007 



The Legislative Audit Committee 
of the Montana State Legislature: 



This is our performance audit of implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) 
and related elections issues. Findings and recommendations address a wide range of issues 
relating to the administration of elections in Montana, including the state's new voter 
registration system, voter identification requirements, polling place information displays, 
new late registration procedures, voting systems requirements, absentee voting, provisional 
voting, voting accessibility for people with disabilities, and the state's provision of funding 
for HAVA and other election reform efforts. 

We wish to express our appreciation to the staff of the Secretary of State's office and 
county election officials for their cooperation and assistance during the audit. 



Respectfully submitted, 

/s/ Scott A. Seacat 

Scott A. Seacat 
Legislative Auditor 



Room 160 • State Capitol Building • PO Box 201705 • Helena, MT • 59620-1705 
Phone (406) 444-3122 • FAX (406) 444-9784 • E-Mail lad@mt.gov 



Table of Contents 

Figures and Tables v 

Elected, Appointed and Administrative Officials vi 

Report Summary S-l 

CHAPTER I - INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND 

Introduction 

HAVA in Montana 

HAVA Requirements 

Changes Mandated Under HAVA 

Funding for HAVA Requirements 2 

Audit Approach 3 

Audit Scope and Objectives 3 

Audit Methodologies 4 

Report Organization 5 

CHAPTER II - STATEWIDE VOTER REGISTRATION SYSTEM 7 

Introduction 7 

Montana's Statewide Voter Registration System 7 

Audit Risks Associated with SVRS 7 

SVRS Data Integrity 8 

Deceased Individuals and Incarcerated Felons Eligible to Vote 8 

Voters with Duplicate Records 9 

Inaccuracies Identified in SVRS Date of Birth Records 9 

Problems with Ineligible and Duplicated Voters Linked to Unique Identifiers 10 

Inconsistencies in County Procedures for Purging SVRS Records 10 

Secretary of State Should Actively Manage SVRS 11 

System Access 11 

Excessive Access to SVRS Voter Records 11 

Secretary of State's Office Should Enforce System Access Policies 12 

County IT Security 12 

Inconsistent Implementation of SVRS Security 13 

Survey Results Confirmed Security Weaknesses 13 

Secretary of State Should Support County IT Security 14 

System Maintenance 15 

SOS System Maintenance Procedures 15 

System Outages Affected Elections Administrations 16 

Secretary of State's Office Should Revise Service Agreements for SVRS 16 

CHAPTER III - VOTER IDENTIFICATION AND INFORMATION 17 

Introduction 17 

HAVA Changes in Registration Procedures 17 

Assessment of Montana's Voter Identification Procedures 18 

County Election Officials Survey Responses 18 

2006 General Election Observations 19 

Introduction of ID Requirements has been Largely Successful 20 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Inconsistencies in Use of Polling Place Elector ID Forms 20 

Elections Guidance Should Emphasize Alternative Identification Options 20 

Voter Information Requirements 21 

Election Day Observations and Survey Results 21 

Secretary of State Should Address Inconsistencies in Voter Information 23 

CHAPTER IV - LATE REGISTRATION 25 

Introduction 25 

Late Registration and HAVA 25 

Late Registration Data 25 

Election Day Registrations 25 

Late Registration Impact on County Voter Turnout 26 

County Election Officials Input on Late Registration 27 

Election Officials Foresee Further Issues with Late Registration 28 

Validity of Election Day Registrations 28 

Secretary of State Developed Reconciliation Procedures for Late Registrants 28 

Fraud Risk for Late Registrations is Elevated but Remains Low 29 

Improved Planning for Late Registration is Necessary 29 

Election Officials Not Prepared for Additional Registration Activity 29 

Secretary of State's Office Should Lead Efforts to Manage Late Registration 30 

Election Day Registration in Other States 30 

Increase in Election Day Registrations May Require Further Legislation 31 

CHAPTER V - VOTING SYSTEMS 33 

Introduction 

HAVA Voting Systems Requirements 

Replacement of Obsolete Voting Systems 34 

Montana has Implemented HAVA Voting Systems Replacement 34 

Changes in County Voting Systems 34 

Analysis of Residual Voting Data 36 

Voting Systems and the Residual Vote in 2006 37 

Secretary of State Precinct Counter Purchase Program 39 

Potential Impacts of Voting Systems on Montana Elections 39 

Two-Tier Structure for Vote Counting Exists in Montana 39 

Common Standard for Voting Systems 40 

Survey Results Support Precinct Count Benefits 41 

Financial Concerns Prevent Counties from Adopting New Voting Systems 42 

Secretary of State's Office Should Plan Transition to Common Standard for Voting 
Systems 42 

Voting Systems Error Testing 43 

Montana Statute Establishes Voting System Testing Standards 43 

Testing Procedures Do Not Ensure Statewide Coverage 44 

CHAPTER VI - PROVISIONAL AND ABSENTEE VOTING 45 

Introduction 45 

Provisional Voting 45 

Provisional Voting Data for Montana Elections 45 






3D 



Ill 



Election Observations and Survey Results 46 

Provisional Voting is Working Well in Montana 47 

Absentee Voting 47 

Absentee Voting Data 48 

2006 General Elections Observations 48 

Survey Results Reveal Inconsistencies in Absentee Voting Procedures 49 

Vulnerabilities Exist with Absentee Voting in Montana 51 

Addressing Inconsistencies in Absentee Voting Procedures 51 

Secretary of State Should Lead Efforts to Standardize Absentee Voting 51 

CHAPTER VII - POLLING PLACE ACCESSIBILITY 53 

Introduction 53 

Audit Work Relating to Accessibility 53 

Polling Place Accessibility 53 

Trends in Accessibility Status 54 

November 2006 General Elections Observations 55 

HAVA Accessibility Grant Program 55 

Survey Responses Relating to Accessibility Grants 56 

Ongoing Management of Accessibility Issues Required at the State Level 56 

Automark Assisted Voting Machines 57 

Purchase and Deployment of Automarks 57 

Functionality and Security Testing 58 

Automark Observations for 2006 General Election 58 

Survey Responses Relating to Automarks 59 

Improvements Needed in Operation of Automark Systems 60 

Automark Technology is Innovative, but has Weaknesses 61 

Familiarity Should Remedy Some Problems 61 

SOS Should Provide Specific Written Instructions on Automark Use 61 

CHAPTER VIII - FUNDING ELECTION REFORM 63 

Introduction 63 

Funding and the Future of Elections in Montana 63 

HAVA Budgets and Expenditures 63 

Survey Results Relating to HAVA Funding 65 

County Election Officials Assessment of Future Needs 65 

Viability of Montana's Elections Funding Structure 67 

Funding Sources and Assignment of Responsibility for Elections Reforms are Unclear 

67 

Best Practices Emphasize Long-Term Perspectives and Shared Responsibility 67 

Montana's Experiences are not Consistent with Best Practices 67 

Secretary of State's Office Should Begin Exploring Funding Options 68 

APPENDIX A - AUDIT APPROACH 71 

Audit Scope 71 

Audit Methodologies 71 

Statutory References 71 

Agency Interviews and Observations 71 



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Review of Agency Documents and Records 72 

Statewide Voter Registration System 72 

Automark Voting System Testing 72 

Election Day Observations 73 

County Election Officials Survey, Interviews and Observations 73 

Review of Elections Returns and other Data 73 

Information from Federal Agencies, Other States, and Other Sources 73 

OFFICE RESPONSE B-l 

The Office of the Secretary of State B-3 



Figures and Tables 

Figures 

Figure 1 Statewide Voter Registration System 7 

Figure 2 Election Day Late Registration Activity by County 28 

Figure 3 Montana County Voting Systems by Type and Sub-Type 36 

Figure 4 Residual Voting Trends by Voting System 38 

Figure 5 Polling Place Accessibility Status 54 

Figure 6 Survey Responses Relating to Anticipated Future Expenditures 66 

Tables 

Table 1 Montana HAVA Grant Awards and Expenditures 3 

Table 2 Survey Responses Relating to SVRS Purge Procedures 10 

Table 3 Survey Responses Relating to County IT Security 14 

Table 4 Survey Responses Relating to Voter Identification Requirements 18 

Table 5 Voter Experiences with Identification Procedures 19 

Table 6 Survey Responses Relating to Voter Information Requirements 22 

Table 7 Survey Responses Relating to Late Registration 27 

Table 8 Election Day Registrations in Other States 30 

Table 9 Residual Vote Trend in Montana Federal Elections 37 

Table 10 Survey Responses Relating to Voting Systems Changes 41 

Table 11 Provisional Voting Data 46 

Table 12 Montana Absentee Voting Data 48 

Table 13 Survey Responses Relating to Absentee Voting 50 

Table 14 Election Day Automark Use and Operation 59 

Table 15 Survey Responses Relating to Automark Systems 60 

Table 16 HAVA Expenditures versus Budgets 64 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Elected, Appointed and Administrative Officials 



The Office of the Secretary of 
State 



Brad Johnson, Secretary of State 
Ralph Peck, Chief Deputy Secretary of State 
Duane Winslow, Interim Elections Deputy 
Janice Doggett, Chief Legal Counsel 



S-l 



Report Summary 



The Help America Vote Act and Related Elections Issues 

Election reform efforts have had a significant impact on voting in Montana; state 
and county election officials can make further improvements to promote equity and 
effective administration in elections. 

Audit Findings 

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and other election reform efforts have been underway 
in Montana since 2002. The Legislative Audit Committee prioritized a performance audit 
of HAVA and related elections issues. Audit work included testing of the new statewide 
voter registration system (SVRS) developed by the Secretary of State's (SOS) office. We 
identified concerns with data integrity, including failure to remove ineligible deceased 
and felon voters from the rolls, and problems with unique identifier numbers. Review of 
SVRS access and security procedures also identified areas where the SOS office could 
tighten security and provide better assistance to counties. Review of system maintenance 
procedures identified weaknesses, which caused SVRS to experience outages on several 
occasions prior to the 2006 elections (Chapter II). 



MT HAVA Budget 



HAVA Activity 


Budget 
(millions) 


Voting Accessibility 


15.7 


SVRS 


$5.3 


Education & Training 


$2.1 


Voting Systems 


$1.9 


Future Contingency/Interest 


$2.1 


SOS Administration 


$0.3 


Total 


$17.4 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative 
Audit Division from SOS office records 



In relation to new voter identification 
requirements,auditworkshowedimprovements 
are necessary in the use of alternative ID 
options in polling places. We also identified 
concerns with the lack of legally-mandated 
voter information in polling places across the 
state (Chapter III). We addressed the effects 
of new late registration provisions and found a 
lack of planning contributed to problems with 
late registrants during the 2006 elections. The 
SOS office may have to prepare for further 
changes as late registration could become 
more widespread in the future (Chapter IV). 
HAVA made changes in voting systems, including prohibition of some voting equipment. 
Review of Montana voting systems changes shows some votes still have a better chance 
being counted depending on location (Chapter V). Recent election reform efforts have also 
included introduction of provisional voting and the expansion of absentee voting (Chapter 
VI). Although provisional voting has been introduced without any problems, we identified 
concerns with disparities in the treatment of absentee ballots. 

Voting accessibility for people with disabilities was a major focus of HAVA. Audit work 
shows Montana has made progress in making polling places more accessible. Further 
improvements in this area should be targeted to address remaining accessibility problems. 
HAVA also mandated provision of accessible voting systems in each polling place. Montana 
purchased and distributed accessible Automark voting systems, which we found were subject 
to a high rate of operational error during the November 2006 elections (Chapter VII). 



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S-2 



Montana Legislative Audit Division 



The final chapter of this report addresses funding requirements for HAVA and other 
election reform efforts. Recent changes in elections administration will require long-term 
funding and some reassessment of the balance of responsibility between state and county 
governments. Our review of election funding issues identified opportunities for a thorough 
review of current funding structures. 



Audit Recommendations 

All audit recommendations are addressed to the SOS office and generally address 
improvements in internal policies and procedures, training provision for election workers, 
coordination/standardization between different counties, and the adoption of a more long- 
term management approach for certain elections issues. 



CHAPTER I - INTRODUCTION AND 

BACKGROUND 

Introduction 

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed by Congress in 2002, largely in 
response to issues with the 2000 presidential elections. HAVA was developed to remedy 
these issues by imposing uniform standards on state administration of elections. These 
developments emphasized the fact that apparently minor errors and inconsistencies in 
elections administration can have far-reaching consequences. The principle that every vote 
is counted on an equal basis is fundamental to the integrity of the democratic process. This 
principle was also demonstrated by an example from Montana's own electoral process. In 
the 2004 elections, effective control of the Montana House of Representatives was decided 
by a single vote. A decision by the Montana Supreme Court in the case of a disputed result 
in a house district rested on only one ballot. 

HAVA in Montana 

Montana elections are administered by county Clerk and Recorders or Election 
Administrators. The state's chief election officer is the Secretary of State (SOS), whose 
office is responsible for implementing state elections laws, providing support to county 
election officials, and officially certifying election results. The SOS and many local election 
officials also have additional duties unrelated to elections. Montana's implementation of 
HAVA has been ongoing since 2002 and has involved both the SOS office and local election 
officials. HAVA election reform has involved changes in state statutes and administrative 
rules, establishing new election functions, competencies and procedures, training elections 
workers in new election duties, purchasing new elections equipment, and investing in new 
information and other systems resources. 

HAVA Requirements 

HAVA has also led to an important shift in the balance between federal, state and local 
government authority over elections procedures. Traditionally, elections have been 
administered by county governments with minimal direction from above. Supporters 
of HAVA election reforms contended this decentralization of authority has contributed 
to wide variations in who gets to vote and how voting is conducted. HAVA aims for a 
greater degree of uniformity in elections procedures, with the end result being greater 
participation and less discrimination in the electoral process. HAVA attempts to achieve 
this by establishing common standards for elections enforced at the federal level and 
implemented by state and local governments. 

Changes Mandated Under HAVA 

HAVA requires states make various changes in elections procedures and imposes deadlines 
for state compliance with these changes. From the state and local perspective, the most 
important provisions of HAVA are those mandating specific changes in election laws or 
procedures, which are summarized as follows: 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Statewide voter registration system - states are required to establish and 
maintain a uniform, official, centralized, interactive, computerized statewide 
voter registration list. The system is to be maintained at the state level and 
contain all voter registration records for all jurisdictions. 

Voter registration and identification - states are required to ensure individuals 
registering to vote provide verification of their identity using driver's licenses, 
social security numbers or some other valid form of identification. 



♦ 



Voter information - states are required to ensure all polling places contained 
information for voters addressing voting instructions and voting rights. 

♦ Replacement of voting machines - states are required to replace all punch card 
and lever voting machines, which had been linked to errors and inaccuracies 
during the 2000 elections. 

♦ Voting systems standards - states are required to make changes in voting 
systems. These changes include allowing voters to check ballot accuracy and 
request replacement ballots, notifying voters of errors on ballots, enforcing a 
manual audit capacity for voting systems, establishing minimum error rates for 
voting equipment, and defining what constitutes a valid vote. 

♦ Provisional voting - states are required to establish the right to a provisional 
ballot for individuals claiming legal registration. Additional requirements 
involved developing procedures to handle and verify provisional ballots, and 
inform voters of the status of these ballots. 

♦ Absentee voting - H AVA requires states to identify a single point of contact for 
absentee voting for military personnel and overseas citizens and compile data on 
absentee voting. 

♦ Polling place and voting system accessibility - HAVA provides funding to 
help make polling places accessible to people with disabilities. Voting system 
standards also include a requirement that each polling place contain voting 
equipment accessible to people with disabilities. 

♦ HAVA administration and funding - states are required to compile and submit 
state plans addressing compliance with HAVA. Various provisions within HAVA 
allocate and appropriate funding for different activities mandated under the act. 

Funding for HAVA Requirements 

Congress appropriated almost $3 billion to fund HAVA election reforms in the states. 
Funding was generally allocated based on state populations and polling places. The 
following table shows Montana's HAVA funding allocation and actual expenditures by 
fiscal year. 



Table 1 

Montana HAVA Grant Awards and Expenditures 

Fiscal Year 2003 Through Fiscal Year 2007 



Fiscal Year 


Grant Awards* 


Expenditures 


2003 


$5,003,440 


$17,199 


2004 


$4,199,620 


$1,440529 


2005 


$139,346 


$2,358,582 


2006 


$7,828,250 


$8,234,299 


2007 


$175,666 


$1,700316 


Total 


$17,361,482 


$13,750,926 




Funds Remaining 


$3,610,556 



Montana has received around $17.3 
million to fund HAVA-related activities. 
The state established a federal special 
revenue account within the SOS office to 
account for the funding. To date, HAVA 
expenditures have totaled approximately 
$13.7 million, leaving around $3.6 million 
in remaining funding for future activities. 
The majority of these expenditures were 
made between the 2004 and 2006 general 
elections when most of the federal HAVA 
deadlines came into force. 

States were permitted significant latitude 
in how they implemented HAVA and 
how funding was allocated between 
different activities. Montana's funding 
priorities are outlined in the Montana 
State HAVA plan, which was released 
in 2003 and amended in 2005. Montana's HAVA state plan was developed by the SOS 
office in collaboration with a broad range of groups, officials and individuals involved 
with elections administration Roughly two thirds of Montana's proposed expenditures 
were for costs relating to polling place and voting accessibility for people with disabilities 
(34 percent), and development of the statewide voter registration system (32 percent). Aside 
from these two large expenditure areas, around 11 percent of funds were budgeted for the 
purchase of new voting systems equipment for counties, and 13 percent was allocated to 
various education, outreach and training activities for the voting public and for election 
officials and poll workers. Remaining funds were allocated to administrative expenditures 
in the SOS office (2 percent) and future contingencies and ongoing maintenance costs 
(8 percent). 



* Including interest and other earnings. 

Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from 
SABHRS records. 



Audit Approach 

The Legislative Audit Committee prioritized a performance audit of HAVA and related 
elections administration issues. We conducted an initial assessment of risks related to 
these issues prior to the implementation of HAVA, and recommended a performance audit 
be postponed until major changes in elections procedures were implemented by SOS and 
counties. 

Audit Scope and Objectives 

Audit scope was determined primarily through reference to the specific provisions of HAVA 
affecting the administration of elections in Montana. In addition to HAVA provisions, we 
also expanded audit scope to include other recent changes in Montana's elections laws. 
These additional changes have included the introduction of late registration (including 
registration on Election Day), and the expansion in availability of absentee voting. Although 
these other changes are not directly related to HAVA, they were a significant issue during 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



the last election cycle and have affected implementation of HAVA provisions. Our scope 
was established to focus specifically on the last two general election cycles (2004 and 
2006), but some trend analysis also includes prior election cycles. 

Audit objectives were based on information and input gathered during audit planning 
work. In general, our objectives addressed the efficiency and effectiveness of elections 
administration through the Secretary of State's office and whether the office had taken 
the necessary steps to ensure effective implementation of various election reforms at 
the county level. Specifically, we developed objectives to address the following areas of 
elections reform: 

♦ Security and stability of the statewide voter registration system. 

♦ Implementation status of new voter identification and information requirements. 

♦ Assessment of the impacts of late registration. 

♦ Changes in county voting systems and equipment. 

♦ Provisional and absentee voting. 

♦ Accessibility for individuals with disabilities. 

♦ Funding requirements for HAVA and other election reform efforts. 

Audit Methodologies 

To address our audit objectives, we developed various methodologies including the 
following: 

♦ 2006 General Election observations - audit staff conducted polling place 
observations during the November 2006 General Elections. Observations were 
conducted in 86 different polling places in 30 Montana counties. Audit staff 
observed over 1,300 voters and these observations were used as a statistical 
sample for a variety of election procedure attributes. 

♦ Analysis of statewide voter registration system (SVRS) data - under our 
first audit objective, information systems auditors conducted extensive testing 
and analysis of SVRS functionality and security features. SVRS data was also 
used extensively in analysis of the attributes of Montana's voting population and 
trends in voting behaviors. 

♦ Survey of county election officials - we developed an online survey to obtain 
input from Montana's county election officials. The survey was sent to election 
officials in all 56 counties and over 80 percent responded to the survey to provide 
input on their experiences in implementing HAVA and elections administration 
in general. 

In addition, audit work was conducted in many areas addressing specific aspects of HAVA 
or other elections laws. Appendix A of this report provides a full discussion of audit scope, 
objectives and methodologies. 



Report Organization 

The remainder of this report is organized in chapters addressing specific functional aspects 
of elections administration. For each of these functional areas, we provide conclusions 
and recommendations relating to the implementation status of various changes in 
elections administration, the extent of compliance with HAVA (where applicable), and the 
effectiveness of the controls put in place by the SOS office. Specifically, we address the 
following areas: 

♦ Chapter II - Statewide Voter Registration System 

♦ Chapter III - Voter Identification and Information 

♦ Chapter IV - Late Registration 

♦ Chapter V - Voting Systems 

♦ Chapter VI - Provisional and Absentee Voting 

♦ Chapter VII - Polling Place Accessibility 

♦ Chapter VIII - Funding Election Reform 



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CHAPTER II - STATEWIDE VOTER 
REGISTRATION SYSTEM 



Introduction 



The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was enacted to improve the fairness and accuracy of 
elections through reform of elections administration and maintenance of voter information. 
As part of these reforms, HAVA requires states develop a central uniform voter database. 

Montana's Statewide Voter Registration System 

In order to comply with HAVA, the Secretary of State's (SOS) office implemented the 
Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) in August of 2005. The Montana SVRS is a 
voter registration database where all voter records for the state of Montana are to be held. 
Another function of the SVRS is to serve as an interface for county election officials to 
enter, update, and delete voter information, as well as identifying potential ineligible voter 
records to be removed from the active voter list. The SVRS has controls in place to identify 
the records of voters who are deceased, incarcerated felons, and underage, as well as voters 
who have duplicate records. 



The SVRS is a centralized application system used by all counties to access all Montana 
voter records. When an individual registers to vote at a county Clerk and Recorder's office, 
their information is entered and stored in the SVRS. The following figure illustrates SVRS 
functionality. 



Figure 1 
Statewide Voter Registration System 



State of Montana Gateway 



Internal Network - State of Montana 



Clerk & Recorder 
Desktop 





Citrix Gateway - 

Where outside users enter 

the state network through the Internet 









■'II 












□□□□ ODD 


::»:: 

■■■■ ■■■ 















1 














:::■£:: 







Application Server- Oracle Server- 

Stores the SVRS Application Stores the SVRS database 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from information obtained from the Secetary of State's 
Office and the Department of Administration. 



Audit Risks Associated with SVRS 

Although the SVRS can serve as a useful tool for central storage and uniform administration 
of voter records, it also holds extremely valuable information. Access to SVRS data by 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



unauthorized individuals could result in manipulation of voter data, or identity theft. 
Considering the risk involved with the SVRS, we conducted audit work over the security 
of the system and the integrity of voter data, including: 

♦ Assessment of data integrity (accuracy and completeness of voter information). 

♦ Review of SVRS user access. 

♦ Evaluation of security procedures for SVRS desktops at the county level. 

♦ Evaluation of the effectiveness of system maintenance procedures. 



SVRS Data Integ rity 



The SVRS is comprised of data for every registered voter, including name, date of birth, 
address, voting history, and a unique identifier (driver's license number or last four digits 
Social Security Number). SVRS data is used by counties to ensure only eligible voters 
can participate in the electoral process. HAVA specifies any SVRS system a state chooses 
to implement must have tools to remove ineligible voters, including duplicate entries, 
deceased voters, and incarcerated felons. Voter records in the SVRS are matched against 
databases from the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Department of Public Health 
and Human Services (DPHHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to identify ineligible 
voter records. When the SVRS identifies an ineligible voter, it is the responsibility of 
county election officials to remove these voters from the active voter registry in the SVRS. 
For this matching process to work, it is important that voter record data is complete and 
accurate. Specifically, each voter record requires a unique identifier to ensure a successful 
match with one of the other state databases and with other records in the system. 

Deceased Individuals and Incarcerated Felons Eligible to Vote 

We conducted audit work to determine if the SVRS is effective in removing deceased and 
incarcerated felons using a computer assisted audit tool to compare voter records with 
data from the DOC and DPHHS databases. Our analysis identified exceptions including 
223 eligible voters who were considered incarcerated felons and 36 eligible voters who are 
deceased. Further analysis showed these numbers were not accurate because the data from 
the DOC and DPHHS was outdated. The felon data had not been updated since August of 
2006, nearly three months prior to the last general election and the deceased data had not 
been updated since November of 2005, a year prior to the last general election. 

We notified the SOS office its data was not current. According to the SOS office, the staff 
members who were most familiar with SVRS operations left the office without documenting 
instructions on how the system data is updated. As a result, the SOS office was relying 
heavily on the system vendor to maintain and operate the SVRS and did not obtain a 
complete understanding of SVRS functionality. This resulted in felon and deceased voter 
data not being updated. In February and March of 2007, the office had updated the DPHHS 
and DOC data. Once data was current, we re-analyzed the voter data. Our results still 
showed 57 incarcerated felons and 37 deceased individuals eligible to vote. Based on this, 
the potential exists that a deceased voter record could be used to vote, but our testing did 
not identify evidence showing deceased individuals or incarcerated felons had voted. 



Voters with Duplicate Records 

County election officials can utilize the SVRS to identify duplicate records. When a new 
voter is entered into the system, the SVRS returns a notification showing whether the new 
voter may already have a record. This notification also provides a confidence rating based on 
the amount of voter information matching between the new record and an existing record. 
The confidence rating is based on the voter's name, date of birth, and driver's license or last 
four digits of Social Security Number (SSN). If all identifiers are matched, the SVRS will 
return a 100 confidence rating meaning the likelihood of a duplicate is high. If only some 
of the identifiers match, confidence ratings of 90, 80, or 70 are returned. County election 
official review potential duplicates to determine if there is a match and update the records 
accordingly. We tested SVRS data to determine if this process is working to ensure voters 
do not have multiple records. 

Testing for duplicate voter records involved analyzing SVRS voter data by comparing 
records sharing common identifiers. Our testing showed 78 voters have active duplicate 
voter records in the SVRS. No evidence was found indicating these individuals voted more 
than once in any election. However, it is important to note that we only included results 
producing the highest confidence rating. Additional comparisons returned other potential 
duplicate records, but they did not produce a high enough confidence rating to conclude the 
duplicate records belonged to a single voter. Regardless, the potential exists an individual 
could submit multiple votes in a single election. 

Inaccuracies Identified in SVRS Date of Birth Records 

Review of SVRS data also identified numerous examples of active voter records with 
apparently inaccurate date of birth entries. Date of birth is one of the unique identifiers 
used to distinguish voters and is also necessary to identify whether an individual is old 
enough to vote. Our review of SVRS data identified the following anomalies in date of 
birth records: 

♦ SVRS shows 37 active voters whose date of birth indicates they are less than 18 
years old and should, therefore, be designated as inactive in the system. 

♦ The system contains records for approximately 480 voters whose dates of birth 
are incorrectly formatted (for example, many of these incorrect records show 
birth dates in the first century A.D.). 

♦ SVRS records for around 1,960 active voters show the individuals are more than 
120 years old. 

SVRS controls prevent election officials from entering incorrect/ineligible dates in the 
date of birth field, so these inaccuracies must be attributable to merging of legacy records 
from previous systems. For some of these legacy records, a date of birth would not have 
been required or was not collected. However, these records have not been updated and 
remain in the system associated with active registered voters. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Problems with Ineligible and Duplicated 
Voters Linked to Unique Identifiers 

County election officials and SOS have controls in place to identify and deactivate 
ineligible voter records, deceased voter records, incarcerated felon records, and duplicate 
records. However, these controls are not being used by counties on a consistent basis. In 
order for these controls to work, each voter record must have a unique identifier such as a 
driver's license number or SSN. The identifiers are required to match voter records against 
records from the DPHHS and DOC databases. These identifiers are also needed to provide 
a high confidence rating when the system identifies potential duplicates. The SVRS has 
edits requiring all new voter records to have a unique identifier. However, all voter records 
created prior to the implementation of the SVRS were imported directly into the system 
and bypassed this control. As a result, 242,465 active voters do not have a unique identifier. 
There are also currently no procedures in place to update this information. 

Inconsistencies in County Procedures for Purging SVRS Records 

We asked county election officials several survey questions relating to procedures for 
purging (removing) ineligible or duplicated voters from the SVRS. The following table 
summarizes responses to selected questions. 



Table 2 
Survey Responses Relating to SVRS Purge Procedures 



Question 


Response Options 


Response 
Percentage 




What method or 
methods do you 
use to identify and 
remove deceased 
voters from the 
voter registration 
list? 


Failure to respond to registration notices 


7% 


Contact from family member or direct knowledge 


64% 


Use SVRS interface with state records (DPHHS) 


31% 


Review of local newspapers for death notices 


76% 


Reports or information from other county 
government offices 


71% 


Other 


24% 




What method or 
methods do you 
use to identify 
and remove 
incarcerated felons 
from the voter 
registration list? 


Use SVRS interface with state criminal records 


22% 


Review of local newspapers/media for court reports 
of felony convictions 


8% 


Reports or information from county attorney's office 
or local police departments 


56% 


Other 


42% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county 
election officials. 



11 



The SVRS provides the SOS a consistent and centralized tool for identifying and removing 
deceased and incarcerated felon voter records. However, the survey results show a minority 
are using the SVRS to assist them in removing deceased and incarcerated felons. The 
results also demonstrate a wide variety of methods are being used throughout the different 
counties to accomplish this task. From county to county, how effectively ineligible records 
are being purged can vary. Based on our audit findings, and the existence of a number 
active voter records that should have been purged, there are clearly weaknesses with the 
inconsistent and varied procedures in place. 

Secretary of State Should Actively Manage SVRS 

Since the state now has a centralized voter registration system in place, centralized 
management should be implemented to maintain it. The SOS should take a more active 
management role, and should help facilitate the following: 

♦ Each county should use the SVRS as a primary method of identifying deceased, 
incarcerated felon, and duplicate voter records. 

♦ Each county must ensure all voter records are complete, accurate, and include a 
unique identifier so the system can effectively identify ineligible voters and limit 
the potential for fraud and error. 

♦ Policy should be developed to provide the counties with guidelines on how to 
implement SVRS ineligible voter checks and how to manage and update voter 
information within their county. 



Recommendation # 1 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office work with counties to develop 
a statewide data integrity improvement plan addressing the updating and 
maintenance of voter information and uniform implementation of SVRS 
controls throughout the state. 



System Access 

To access the SVRS, an individual is required to have an authorized user account with a 
unique state issuedID andpassword. These accounts are createdby SOS office administrators 
and at the county level. It is the administrator's responsibility to limit the level of access an 
individual has by assigning different privileges based on job responsibilities. 

Excessive Access to SVRS Voter Records 

We used a computer assisted auditing tool to analyze SVRS user data to ensure only 
authorized users with acceptable privileges are able to access SVRS data. Our analysis 
returned the following results: 

♦ County administrative access should only be assigned to Clerk and Recorders 
and county election administrators. Our analysis returned 57 county admin 
accounts belonging to users who are not county election administrators. This 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



results in users who do not have the proper authority being able to create 
additional user accounts. This increases the possibility of unauthorized access 
to SVRS data. 

♦ SOS Elections Bureau staff have been granted system access allowing them to 
assign administrative privileges used to change or add voter information. The 
ability to change and update local voter information should only reside with 
county staff. 

♦ Two third-party vendors and one former employee have access allowing them 
to change, remove, or add voter information (SOS has since deactivated these 
accounts. 

♦ Twenty-five accounts exist without a state assigned ID and seventy-five 
accounts had been assigned an ID but to a generic name. Generic accounts do 
not maintain any individual responsibility. If an individual removed or changed 
voter information, there would be no accountability because the account cannot 
be traced back to a specific individual). 

Secretary of State's Office Should Enforce System Access Policies 

The SOS currently reviews the SVRS access list on a biannual basis for accounts no longer 
being used. However, they do not have procedures to review or analyze the access list for 
individuals with excessive access or individuals who should have no access. There is also no 
policy or procedure in place to ensure all users can be identified to hold them accountable 
in the event they remove, change, or add voter information without authorization. 



Recommendation #2 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office improve controls over 

SVRS access by: 

A. Developing procedures to comprehensively review access to the SVRS to 
ensure authorized individuals have access appropriate to their job duties; 
AND 

B. Working with counties to develop policies and procedures to ensure system 
users can be uniquely identified. 



County IT Security 



The SVRS is accessed using desktop computers connected to the Internet at county 
election offices across the state. The SOS office maintains it is the responsibility of each 
county to provide security over the desktops used to access the SVRS. However, many of 
the counties do not have IT professionals on staff, or rely on a third-party vendor to supply 
IT support for their networks and desktops. As a result, the level of security from county to 
county is inconsistent. Audit work was conducted in three different counties to determine 
what levels of security are being implemented to SVRS desktops at the counties. We also 
surveyed county election officials regarding what type of IT support they have in place and 
how they are securing their desktops. 



13 



Inconsistent Implementation of SVRS Security 

To test the security levels on the SVRS desktops, we developed a checklist based on 
security requirements outlined in state policy and potential security threats identified 
by the Department of Administration. The checklist included testing addressing remote 
connectivity (third-party access to desktops), physical access (protection from unauthorized 
public access), outdated software (operating systems no longer supported by vendors or 
systems not current with important security updates and patches), anti-virus (presence of 
current anti-virus software), surf-controls exemption (blocking dangerous or unnecessary 
websites), and default accounts and local administrative accounts (Windows operating 
systems come with default guest and admin accounts, which are well known and can be 
exploited). 

We visited the county election offices in three different counties. At each location, we 
tested two machines commonly used to access the SVRS system. As a result of our testing, 
we identified appropriate controls functioning in the following areas: 

♦ All counties were supporting their operating systems. 

♦ All counties had current anti-virus. 



♦ 



All counties had a surf-control filter to prevent users from accessing dangerous 
sites on the Internet. 

We also identified several areas where county desktop security procedures could be 
improved, which are listed as follows: 

♦ All counties had security vulnerabilities as a result of missing patches. 

♦ One county was configured to allow remote connectivity. 

♦ One county had a desktop physically available to the public. 

♦ All counties still had default user accounts active on the SVRS desktops. 

♦ All counties configured their desktops to lock after 10 to 15 minutes of inactivity, 
but this function was disabled in two counties. 

Survey Results Confirmed Security Weaknesses 

Security vulnerabilities are most likely more prevalent in counties not having acceptable 
levels of IT support. We conducted a survey of county election officials, which included 
various questions about county IT security issues. Responses for selected survey questions 
are included in the following table. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Table 3 
Survey Responses Relating to County IT Security 



Question 


Response Options 


Response 
Percentage 




Who is responsible for computer 
security and maintenance for your 
county? 


Full-time IT staff 


36% 


Part-time IT staff 


2% 


Other county employee 


29% 


Private contractor 


26% 


Other 


7% 




How often does your county 
perform updates or install patches 
for computer operating systems 
or security software? 


Daily 


24% 


Weekly 


24% 


Monthly 


9% 


Every few months 


12% 


Annually 


2% 


Don't Know 


29% 




How would you rate the 
information and advice provided 
by the Secretary of State's 
office and/or the system vendor 
regarding IT system security for 
running SVRS? 


Excellent 


10% 


Good 


22% 


OK 


45% 


Poor 


10% 


Did not receive information 


13% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county 
election officials. 



Based on survey results, there is a wide disparity in how counties are securing SVRS 
desktops. In terms of updating and patching their desktop operating systems, 48 percent 
of counties perform this task at least on a weekly basis. However, 14 percent of counties 
represent they do not even perform this task on a monthly basis and 29 percent state they 
cannot identify if or when this process occurs. Security patches are designed to resolve 
vulnerabilities in operating system that could be exploited by an outside threat such as a 
hacker or a virus. Since the SVRS is centralized, if one county has not sufficiently secured 
their desktops, this could affect the operations of all counties. Another concern is some of 
the counties may not have a proper understanding of how to secure their SVRS desktops. 
Survey results show 29 percent rely on non-IT personnel to handle maintenance and 
security their computers. An additional 13 percent stated they have received no assistance 
from the SOS office. 



Secretary of State Should Support County IT Security 

Audit work shows there is no consistent level of security implemented by the counties. The 
SVRS is a centralized system and all of the counties rely on it. If one desktop is exploited, 



15 



voter data throughout the state could be jeopardized. The office has developed a help desk 
including an audit function designed to identify security threats at the county level and 
provide assistance to resolve those threats. 

To assist counties in developing a more consistent approach to securing their SVRS desktops, 
the SOS office should establish guidelines detailing desktop security requirements to be 
uniformly implemented by all counties. Using the help desk function, the SOS would have 
a mechanism to assist counties that may not have adequate IT support in meeting these 
designated security requirements. Included in the help desk the SOS could also implement 
an audit function where random reviews of county SVRS desktop security is performed to 
ensure the counties are meeting security requirements. If the help desk identifies security 
weaknesses at a specific county, that function could be used to provide assistance in 
strengthening IT security. 



Recommendation #3 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office assist counties in 

implementing effective desktop security procedures by: 

A. Developing SVRS desktop security procedures at the county level; AND 

B. Providing counties with desktop security advice and guidance through the 
SVRS help desk; AND 

C. Implementing an audit process to identify security weaknesses at the county 
level. 



System Maintenance 

Throughout the lifecycle of an IT system, upgrades, regular maintenance, and improvements 
will be required. In order to implement a change in a complex system, it is important 
to have a change management procedure in place to ensure a system change does not 
negatively impact operations. A change management process is always an important part 
of maintaining the SVRS, but in the few weeks leading up to an election, it is especially 
important. Due to the high number of voters registering during this time period, the SVRS 
needs to remain available at all times. The SOS office has issued instructions to counties 
on how to register voters in the event of a system outage. However, to further minimize 
any risk that voters could be discouraged from registering or voting, an effective change 
control process must be in place to ensure the SVRS is always available. If an outage 
does occur, a backup system should be implemented to provide alternative access to the 
system. 

SOS System Maintenance Procedures 

According to SOS IT management, when a change is made to the system, a process is in 
place to ensure the changes do not hinder SVRS operations. If county election officials 
identify a problem with the operation of the SVRS, they can submit a request to the system 
vendor. The vendor will provide the SOS office with the request for change to the system for 
approval. If approved, the vendor will update and test the SVRS with the requested change. 
Once the vendor determines the change is working as intended and has not negatively 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



affected the SVRS, they provide the SOS office with the updated system. The updated 
system is then sent to the Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) where further 
testing involving county users is conducted. If the county users approve of the change and 
verify the SVRS is working as expected, the system will be put into full service. 

System Outages Affected Elections Administrations 

Audit work identified exceptions to this change control process resulting in extended outages 
to the SVRS around Election Day. On October 16, 2006, the SVRS system experienced 
an outage for four hours, leaving county election staff unable to register voters during 
that time period. We found this outage was due to a configuration change to a network 
component critical to the SVRS. The SVRS was not tested following the configuration 
change. When put back into production, the new configuration prevented counties from 
accessing SVRS. The SVRS has a back-up system that is to be activated during situations 
like this to prevent an outage. The back-up system was never implemented due to a 
miscommunication between the SOS office and ITSD as to when the back-up activation 
should occur. 

On November 7, 2006, Election Day, another outage occurred. This outage could have 
been prevented by ITSD installing a network patch released in August 2006, but the patch 
was never installed. As with the previous outage, ITSD also did not implement the backup 
system. This outage likely affected some of the hundreds of voters waiting in line at county 
courthouses around the state. In our survey of county election officials we asked several 
questions relating to system outages on or around the 2006 General Elections. Around 
64 percent of county election officials reported these outages had a negative impact on 
their operations. 

Secretary of State's Office Should Revise Service Agreements for SVRS 

The office and ITSD currently have a service level agreement (SLA) detailing what is 
expected from each entity. The current SLA does not identify how a change control process 
should be implemented. The SLA does not specify when, how, and by whom the backup 
system should be implemented. Without the existence of clear language identifying roles 
and duties, miscommunication has occurred between the office and ITSD, which resulted 
in system outages. 



Recommendation #4 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office revise the current service 
level agreement with the Information Technology Services Division to 
include specific assignment of responsibilities and procedures relating 
to the SVRS change control process and implementation of the back-up 
system. 



17 



CHAPTER III - VOTER IDENTIFICATION AND 

INFORMATION 

Introduction 

Among the most visible results of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) have been new state 
requirements that voters provide identification (ID) during registration and voting. New 
voter ID requirements are linked to the establishment of the statewide voter registration 
system (SVRS) discussed in the previous chapter. New voter ID standards are necessary 
under HAVA to ensure statewide voter registration systems function correctly and do not 
allow duplication of voter records. 

HAVA also sets new standards for the availability of information for voters within polling 
places. The Act places certain responsibilities on voters regarding identification and 
registration, but also seeks to improve the level of information available to them within 
polling places. Specifically, HAVA requires all polling places contain publicly posted 
information including sample ballots, election dates and polling hours, voting instructions, 
voting rights, and federal and state elections laws. 

We conducted audit work to assess the impacts of the new voter identification requirements 
on polling for the 2006 General Election. We also conducted work addressing the 
availability of voter information within polling places. Findings and recommendations 
relating to these two areas are summarized in the following sections. 

HAVA Changes in Registration Procedures 

Specific HAVA provisions for voter identification include the following requirements: 

♦ Registration applications for federal elections must include a driver's license 
number or the last four digits of a Social Security Number (SSN). For applicants 
with neither number, a unique identifier number generated through the statewide 
registration list can be used. States are required to ensure the statewide 
registration list provides a means of verifying the identification numbers 
provided by applicants. 

♦ First-time voters and voters who register by mail must present one of the 
following forms of ID when voting in person or by mail if they did not do so 
when registering to vote: 

• A current and valid photo identification; or 

• Copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, 
or other government document showing the voter's name and address. 

♦ Voters who cannot present the required forms of ID are given an alternative 
voting option of casting a provisional ballot. 

♦ HAVA establishes standardized language to be used in mail voter registration 
forms containing questions regarding US citizenship and the applicant's age. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Montana law was revised in 2003 to incorporate changes in voter ID requirements 
mandated under HAVA. Montana's election laws conform with HAVA because they 
impose ID requirements on all voters, regardless of whether they are voting for the first 
time or they registered by mail or in person. As explained in the Montana state HAVA 
plan, ID requirements were applied universally in order to avoid the additional burden on 
poll workers of distinguishing between first-time voters, mail-in registrants and transfer 
voters. 

Assessment of Montana's Voter Identification Procedures 

All electors voting in person at Montana polling places must now present valid ID before 
receiving a ballot. Montana law also allows for use of either a photo ID or another form 
of ID that shows the voter's name and address. Statute establishes the right of voters to 
receive a provisional ballot if they are unable to provide an acceptable form of ID. We 
conducted audit work in various areas to determine how well Montana's new voter ID 
requirements are working. The following sections outline analysis and findings from 
survey responses from county election officials, and observations conducted during the 
2006 General Election. 



County Election Officials Survey Responses 

We asked Montana's county election officials several questions about how new ID 
requirements impacted election administration. The following table summarizes responses 
to selected questions. 



Table 4 
Survey Responses Relating to Voter Identification Requirements 



Question 


Response Options 


Response Percentage 




Did the Secretary of State's office 
provide you with clear guidance 
on new voter ID requirements? 


Yes 


93% 


No 


7% 




Do you think Montana's voter ID 
requirements are too strict or not 
strict enough? 


Too strict 


10% 


About Right 


80% 


Not strict enough 


10% 




In your experience have the new 
ID requirements prevented or 
discouraged otherwise eligible 
people from registering to vote? 


Yes 


12% 


No 


81% 


Don't Know 


7% 




In your experience have the new 
ID requirements been important 
in deterring or preventing 
electoral fraud? 


Yes 


44% 


No 


21% 


Don't Know 


35% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county 
election officials. 



19 



Survey responses revealed several notable features regarding the views of county elections 
officials on voter ID requirements: 

♦ Over 90 percent of respondents agreed that the SOS office had provided clear 
guidance on the ID issue. State officials devoted considerable time and effort 
to public education and election worker training on ID requirements, and these 
efforts appear to have contributed to a greater level of understanding among 
county election officials. 

♦ Eighty percent of respondents said the new requirements have been set at about 
the right level, minorities of respondents thought ID requirements were either 
too strict or not strict enough. This result probably reflects Montana's neutral 
approach to the ID issue and the decision to apply ID requirements to all voters, 
but not opt for strict photo ID-only standards. 

♦ County election officials do not believe ID requirements have deterred eligible 
voters from registering, but they are less sure if the new requirements have 
affected electoral fraud. County officials with large numbers of voters tended 
to be more convinced that new ID requirements had affected electoral fraud. 
Conversely, county officials with small numbers of voters were more concerned 
about the potential for ID requirements to discourage eligible voters from 
registering. 



2006 General Election Observations 

Audit staff conducted polling place observations during the November 2006 General 
Election and included review of the process followed by poll workers in checking 
registration and identification information prior to issuing ballots. Observational data was 
gathered to show whether poll workers were verifying voter ID, and what actions were 
taken in cases where the voter was unable to produce the ID. The following table shows 
sample attribute values for the different voting outcomes we observed. The projected 
values for number of voters were calculated based on statistical analysis of sample data at 
a confidence level of 90 percent (the numeric values represent the mean estimate within a 
high low/range). 



Table 5 

Voter Experiences with Identification Procedures 

2006 General Election 



Identification Procedure Outcome 


Sample Attribute 
Percentage 


Projected Number 
of Voters 




Failure to Verify ID 


0.43% 


1,768 




No ID - Voter Leaves Polling Place 


0.57% 


2,343 


No ID - Voter Uses Polling Place Elector ID Form 


1.14% 


4,686 


No ID - Voter Uses Provisional Ballot 


0.21% 


863 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Election Day voter observation data. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Introduction of ID Requirements has been Largely Successful 

The experience of the 2006 General Election suggests the introduction of voter ID 
requirements in Montana has been mostly successful and has not resulted in widespread 
problems. Montana has taken a balanced approach to ID requirements, which applies the 
same standards to all voters, but also allows for both photo and document-type ID to be 
used. As evidenced by Election Day observations, Montana's voter ID requirements have 
generally been applied in a consistent manner across the state. One area of inconsistency 
appears to be the use of the polling place elector ID form. 



Conclusion 

The introduction of new voter identification requirements in Montana has 
been largely successful, but some inconsistencies remain in the use of 
polling place elector ID forms. 



Inconsistencies in Use of Polling Place Elector ID Forms 

Observations also showed that there were variations in how voters without ID were treated 
in polling places. We can estimate that around 7,900 or slightly fewer than 2 percent of 
voters in the 2006 general elections were not able to produce a required form of ID when 
casting a ballot. HAVA and Montana law allow voters unable to produce ID at the polling 
place to use alternative means through either completing a polling place elector ID form, 
or casting a provisional ballot. 

Our voter observations indicate some voters were unable to present ID when they arrived 
to vote and chose to leave the polling place. In some of these cases it was likely the voter 
was able to retrieve required ID from a vehicle or lived/worked nearby and was able to 
return with ID. For these voters, returning with ID was probably an easier option, but for 
some other voters this may have been an inconvenience that could have been avoided by 
using the polling place elector ID form. Our observations indicate poll workers were not 
applying alternative ID options uniformly for all voters. These kinds of inconsistencies 
could lead to some voters being turned-away from the polls unnecessarily and, possibly, 
being unable to cast an otherwise eligible vote. 

Elections Guidance Should Emphasize 
Alternative Identification Options 

Because of the potential impacts of the new HAVA ID requirements, the SOS office 
conducted extensive training and public education efforts aimed at providing information 
for poll workers and the voting public. The increased emphasis on HAVA ID requirements 
may have led some poll workers to overlook the alternative ID options available to legally 
registered voters or those claiming to be registered. 

The Secretary of State's office should revise poll worker training materials and provide 
appropriate guidance to county election officials to re-emphasize the availability of 
alternative ID options. The successful introduction of ID requirements for Montana 
elections means there is a lower risk that providing information on ID alternatives will 



21 



cause confusion among poll workers or voters. The SOS office could work collaboratively 
with counties to identify where further training, assistance or guidance could be provided 
to further improve the use of alternative ID options. By continuing to emphasize the 
availability of alternative ID options, election officials can better ensure equal treatment 
for all voters. 



Recommendation #5 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office continue to review and 
revise training materials and other elections guidance to emphasize the 
availability of polling place elector ID forms and work with counties to 
ensure effective implementation. 



Voter Information Requirements 



HAVA mandates the provision and public posting of different types of information for 
voters within polling places. The act specifies the following information be posted in 
polling places: 

♦ Sample version of the ballot that will be used for the election. 

♦ Information regarding the date of the election and the hours during which polling 
places will be open. 

♦ Instructions on how to vote, including how to cast a vote and how to cast a 
provisional ballot. 

♦ Instructions for mail-in registrants and first-time voters. 

♦ General information on voting rights under federal and state laws, including 
information on the right to cast a provisional ballot and instructions on how to 
contact the appropriate officials if these rights have been violated. 

♦ General information on federal and state laws regarding prohibitions on acts of 
fraud and misrepresentation. 

Election Day Observations and Survey Results 

Audit staff conducted Election Day observations during the 2006 General Election. 
Observations were conducted in 86 different polling places in 30 counties. These 
observations included assessment of the availability of HAVA-mandated voter information 
within polling places. The following summarizes results from our observations of 
information displayed in polling places: 

♦ 84 percent displayed sample ballots used in the election. 

♦ 21 percent displayed election dates and polling place opening/closing times. 

♦ 43 percent displayed instructions for first-time or mail-in registrants. 

♦ 74 percent displayed information on how to vote and provisional voting 
procedures. 

♦ 53 percent displayed general information on voting rights and elections laws. 

♦ 6 percent displayed information on complaints procedures and contacting 
elections officials. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Our Election Day observations indicate widespread disparities in the types of voter 
information being made available in the state's polling places. The most consistency was 
seen with sample ballots, which were available in nearly 85 percent of polling places, and 
general voting procedures (including provisional voting), which were available in around 
three quarters of poling places. For most of the other main information categories outlined 
in HAVA, less than half of polling places were in compliance with legal requirements. 
Of particular concern was the fact that only six percent of polling places publicly posted 
information on contacting election officials with complaints about violations of voting 
rights. 

Concerns highlighted in our observational data were generally confirmed by responses to 
our survey of county election officials. Responses to selected questions regarding polling 
place information postings are included in the following table. 



Table 6 
Survey Responses Relating to Voter Information Requirements 



Question 


Response Options 


Response 
Percentage 




Did you receive 
informational posters and 
flyers for use in polling 
places from the Secretary of 
State's office addressing any 
of the following information? 


How to cast a vote 


35% 


How to cast a provisional ballot 


38% 


ID requirements for all voters 


100% 


Information on voting rights and election laws 


60% 




According to your 
instructions to poll workers 
what kinds of voter 
information are supposed 
to be displayed in different 
areas of polling places? 


Sample ballot 


98% 


Date of election and polling place hours 


67% 


How to cast a ballot and vote provisionally 


83% 


Instructions for mail-in/first-time registrants 


31% 


Information on voting rights and election laws 


79% 


State elections complaints procedures 


40% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county election officials. 



As shown, when asked whether they had received polling place informational posters from 
the SOS office, county election officials responded consistently for only one category (voter 
ID requirements). For the other types of information referenced in the survey question, 
significant proportions of counties reported receiving no information posters or flyers from 
the SOS office. Similar responses were seen in relation to the instructions counties gave 
to poll workers regarding voter information displays within polling places, which showed 
little consistency between different counties. Documents provided by the SOS office show 
counties should have received directives detailing the types of informational posters to 
be posted in polling places. However, results from the field show this guidance was either 
misinterpreted or ignored in some circumstances. 



23 



Secretary of State Should Address 
Inconsistencies in Voter Information 

Observation and survey response data clearly shows significant disparities in the level of 
information provided to voters in polling places across the state. These disparities have 
the potential to result in some voters being deprived of information that would assist them 
in casting valid votes or effectively pursuing their rights under federal and state elections 
laws. Under HAVA requirements each polling place in the state should be displaying a 
prescribed minimum amount of information for voters. Coordinating separate provision 
of this information among Montana's 56 counties could present difficulties and may not 
ensure the required level of consistency. As an alternative, the SOS office and counties could 
develop a uniform and standardized voter information display. By working collaboratively 
with counties to develop informational displays, the SOS office may be able to help local 
jurisdictions achieve greater levels of compliance with HAVA requirements. Ultimately, 
this should be in the best interests of both state and county election officials and could 
further their shared goals of providing voters with the best and most comprehensive 
information available on voting procedures and voting rights. This voter information 
display should be developed with a uniform format and include, at a minimum, the HAVA- 
mandated information requirements. 



Recommendation #6 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office collaborate with counties 
to develop, produce and distribute a uniform voter information display for 
use in all Montana's polling places. 



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24 



25 

CHAPTER IV - LATE REGISTRATION 

Introduction 

The 2006 elections featured extensive changes made under the Help America Vote Act 
(HAVA), but were also the first time election officials dealt with other changes in elections 
laws. Foremost amongst these changes was the introduction of late registration. State 
elections laws were revised during the 2005 legislative session to allow voters to register 
or change registration details in the 30 days leading up to and including Election Day. 
Previously, voters wishing to change their records or unregistered individuals would be 
ineligible to vote unless they registered 30 days in advance of Election Day. Throughout 
this chapter we use the term 'late registration' to refer generically to all registration 
actions for both new and transfer registrants (although there is a distinction between the 
registration status of new and transfer registrants, the impact of late registration is the 
same in both cases, i.e. the ability to register and vote where this would previously not have 
been possible). 

Late Registration and HAVA 

Late registration was not mandated under HAVA and is not a requirement imposed by the 
federal government. However, late registration many complement some of the changes 
made under HAVA, many of which were designed to remove obstacles to registration and 
voting. Another reason for addressing late registration in relation to HAVA election reform 
is the impact seen in the 2006 General Election. Considerable numbers of voters took 
advantage of late registration and this introduced an important new dynamic in the days 
leading up to and including Election Day. The decision to expand audit scope to include 
late registration was based on audit observations, interviews and data analysis pointing to 
this issue as a significant feature of recent election reform efforts. 



Late Registration Data 

Data showing the numbers of voters taking advantage of late registration is available from 
the statewide voter registration system (SVRS) and also from surveys conducted by the 
Secretary of State's (SOS) office. SVRS data identified registered voters who were registered 
or had their registration details updated during the late registration period. Late registration 
began on October 11, 2006 and ran through Election Day (November 7th). For the middle 
two weeks of October registrations ran at an average of 100 - 150 daily across the state. 
In the final week of October registrations increased to an average of 200 per day. On the 
Monday before Election Day counties processed around 560 registrations. In total, 3,965 
voters registered or changed registration details in the period up to November 6, 2006. 

Election Day Registrations 

On Election Day itself, counties experienced increased numbers of late registrants. Data 
supplied by the SOS office shows around 4,350 people were either registered or changed 
their registration details on Election Day (this represents 52 percent of all late registration 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



activity). We used this data to determine what proportion of statewide late registration 
activity occurred in different counties. The following figure shows the proportion of 
statewide Election Day registrations for each county (shading) and also includes the actual 
number of county late registrants (numeric values). 



Figure 2 
Election Day Late Registration Activity by County 

November 7, 2006 




Percentage of Statewide 
Election Day Registrations 



Total Election Day Registrations = 4,351 



< 0.7 % 

0.8 % - 2.0 % 

2.1 % - 4.2 % 



4.3 % - 7.5 % 
7.6% -14.5% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Secretary of State's office records. 



One-third of Election Day registrations were concentrated in three counties (Missoula, 
Yellowstone and Gallatin). The numbers of Election Day registrations tended to 
vary according to the number of registered voters, so late registration activities were 
concentrated in counties containing more densely populated urban areas. Analyzing the 
number of Election Day registrations as a proportion of all registration activity shows the 
state's larger urban counties experienced the highest workload levels on Election Day as a 
result of late registration. 

Late Registration Impact on County Voter Turnout 

Combined SVRS and SOS office data shows approximately 8,295 individuals registered or 
changed registration details during the late registration period (up to and including Election 



27 



Day). At the statewide level, the inclusion of these additional eligible voters for the 2006 
elections probably resulted in an increase in turnout of approximately 1.3 percent (from 
62 percent to 63.3 percent). This calculation assumes that approximately 3,965 voters who 
registered prior to Election Day actually cast a ballot. 

At the county level, the impact on turnout resulting from late registration shows some 
degree of variability. Impacts on voter turnout resulting from late registration appear to 
have been distributed fairly evenly across the state. The highest turnout effects were mainly 
seen in smaller rural counties, but there were some exceptions to this. Overall, analysis of 
county voter turnout tends to support the view that late registration has had a significant 
impact across the state and has not been limited to those counties where Election Day 
registration activity was actually highest. 

County Election Officials Input on Late Registration 

We included various questions relating to late registration in our survey of county election 
officials. These questions addressed the planning and support available for late registration 
and how implementation affected county elections administration. The following table 
contains response data for two questions relating to late registration. 



Table 7 
Survey Responses Relating to Late Registration 



Question 


Response Options 


Response 
Percentage 




How would you describe the guidance 
or advice provided by the Secretary 
of State's office relating to late 
registration? 


Excellent 


0% 


Good 


22% 


OK 


37% 


Poor 


22% 


Very Poor 


20% 




Please indicate whether late 
registration and Election Day 
registrations had any impact on 
administration of elections in the 
following areas. 


County staff unable to address questions from 
precinct election judges 


78% 


Additional unanticipated costs for staff and 
other resources 


73% 


Long delays registering voters 


58% 


Expansion in the number of registered voters in 
the county 


48% 


Other 


30% 


Higher occurrence of electoral fraud or other 
irregularities 


18% 


Decrease in provisional votes cast in precincts 


10% 


Increase in the number of voters from groups 
with low rates of electoral participation 


10% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county election officials. 



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Responses indicate some level of dissatisfaction with the efforts of the SOS office to plan 
and implement changes in the registration process. Twenty-two percent of county election 
officials gave the SOS office a positive assessment in relation to the guidance and advice 
provided on late registration. County election officials identified their inability to deal with 
questions and inquiries from precinct poll workers as being the most common problem 
with late registration. The second most common problem identified was additional and 
unanticipated costs for staff and other resources used as a result of late registration. Survey 
returns show around 10 counties were required to keep courthouse polling places open late 
to accommodate late registrants. Additionally, elections staff dealing with late registrants 
would have been unavailable for some required duties, such as supervising and assisting 
absentee counting boards and preparing for collection and tabulation of election results. 

Election Officials Foresee Further Issues with Late Registration 

Survey questions on late registration also addressed whether counties anticipated further 
problems and whether late registration could impact the number of polling places available. 
For future election cycles, around 75 percent of county election officials said they 
anticipated further problems resulting from late registration. This suggests county officials 
do not attribute the problems experienced in 2006 to unfamiliarity with late registration 
procedures. Around half of respondents indicated they expected to close or consolidate 
polling places as a result of the need to provide extra resources for late registration. 

Validity of Election Day Registrations 

One frequently cited concern relating to Election Day registrations is the potential for the 
practice to increase the prevalence of electoral fraud. This concern results from the fact 
that voters transferring between different jurisdictions could use late registration to create 
a new registration record and vote more than once. Late registration allows voters who 
have an existing registration record to change their registration details if they move in or 
between counties or change their name. Potentially, this would allow a voter to go into a 
county election office on Election Day, request a transfer of registration, cast a ballot, and 
then travel to the precinct polling place they were originally registered in and cast a second 
ballot. To prevent this situation from occurring, election administrators are instructed 
to differentiate between late registrants with no existing registration record and those 
transferring from another jurisdiction or precinct. Late transfer registrants vote provisional 
ballots and these are only counted once the county can verify (after the close of polls), that 
they did not cast a precinct ballot under their previous registration record. 

Over the late registration period, slightly less than one quarter of registrations involved 
updating registration records for transfer registrants. On Election Day, only 15 percent 
of registration activities involved updating existing records. For the 2006 elections, this 
would mean around 650 transfer registrants out of 4,350 late registrants should have been 
considered higher-risk registrations and received provisional ballots. 

Secretary of State Developed Reconciliation 
Procedures for Late Registrants 

The SOS office issued election advisories to all Montana counties both prior to Election 
Day and following the close of polls regarding reconciliation procedures for late transfer 
registrants. These instructions outlined procedures counties should follow to ensure late 



29 



transfer registrants could not have more than one ballot counted. Procedures involved 
counties unsealing precinct registers to check whether or not an individual had cast a 
precinct ballot under their original registration record. If this had occurred, election 
officials were instructed not to count the ballot cast under the late transfer registration. 

Testing of SVRS records for duplicate voting did not identify any instances of late transfer 
registrants voting more than once. SVRS testing did return several records showing 
voters with multiple voting attempts during the 2006 General Election, but only one of 
these voters appeared to be a late transfer registrant. For this individual, county controls 
appeared to have functioned correctly as only one of two requested absentee ballots was 
actually counted. 

Fraud Risk for Late Registrations is Elevated but Remains Low 

Provided election officials follow correct procedures, there is no reason why voters would 
have a better chance of committing electoral fraud by adding or updating a registration 
record in the 30 days prior to an election. There is a possibility that late registration activity 
raises the overall level of confusion for election officials, which could contribute to an 
increased chance of errors occurring in the process. However, while this should be a matter 
of concern for election officials, there is no indication of widespread voter fraud problems 
with late registration. It does, however, indicate the continuing need for additional scrutiny 
of late registrations generally and late transfer registrants in particular. 

Improved Planning for Late Registration is Necessary 

The introduction of late registration in Montana increased voter participation, but 
this success has not come without a price. Late registration has imposed additional 
administrative burdens, the majority of which have fallen on county election officials. 
Although late registration was used across the state, some counties experienced significant 
problems with the additional workload involved. The additional administrative burden of 
late registration also involves extra safeguards to prevent electoral fraud, which may be 
linked to the added confusion late registrants can introduce in the hectic days leading up 
to and including Election Day. 

Election Officials Not Prepared for Additional Registration Activity 

Observations and documented reports from the 2006 elections indicated some counties 
experienced problems with the numbers of voters registering on Election Day and were not 
prepared for the workload this involved. This lack or preparedness was also evident at the 
state level, where there seemed to be some surprise among election officials that Election 
Day registration was used by so many voters. Some of this may be traced to the original 
legislation authorizing late registration and Election Day registration. Late registration was 
introduced in Montana during the 2005 legislative session under Senate Bill (SB) 302. The 
fiscal note attached to SB 302 does not identify any significant local government impacts 
resulting from the introduction of late registration and did not identify any fiscal impact 
associated with extending the registration period. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Secretary of State's Office Should Lead Efforts 
to Manage Late Registration 

Several changes could be considered, which may help counties in their administration 
of late registration. Our survey of county election officials provided some indication of 
where the SOS office could make some relatively simple changes in the way it provides 
information on late registration. County officials identified better public information 
regarding registration prior to Election Day as one way of helping counties deal with late 
registration. SOS could prioritize public information efforts in future election cycles to 
emphasize the convenience of registering prior to Election Day. Although the SOS office 
cannot use HAVA funding to support public education efforts relating to late registration, 
the office has a prominent public role leading up to Election Day and could use the 
many opportunities available to them to communicate information on late registration 
procedures to the general public. Regular training for county election officials and their 
staffs should also continue to focus on late registration activity as an area of elevated 
risk and emphasize the procedures counties need to follow to guard against duplicative or 
fraudulent registrations. 



Recommendation #7 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office lead efforts to mitigate the 

effects of late registration by: 

A. Focusing public education on registering prior to Election Day; AND 

B. Emphasizing late registration procedures and anti-fraud controls in training 
for county elections officials. 



Election Day Registration in Other States 

Information compiled by election study groups indicates six other states currently offer 

Election Day registration as an option. The other states offering Election Day registration 

are mainly smaller and more rural than 

average (Minnesota, Wyoming, New 

Hampshire, Idaho, Maine and Wisconsin). 

The following table summarizes information 

on Election Day registration activities in four 

other states and Montana for the 2006 General 

Election: 



Comparison with Election Day registrations 
in four other states shows Montana's 
registration activity for the 2006 elections 
was significantly lower. This comparative 
data also raises the question of whether 
Montana can expect to see significant 
increases in Election Day registrations in the 
future. Several factors need to be taken into 



Table 8 

Election Day Registrations in Other States 

2006 General Elections 



State 


Number of 
Election Day 
Registrations 


Percentage 

of 

Registered 

Voters 


Idaho 


54,531 


7.1% 


Minnesota 


292,168 


9.4% 


New Hampshiree 


25,796 


3.0% 


Wisconsin 


393,391 


12.8% 


Montana 


4,351 


0.7% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from 
state Secretary of State official election records. 



31 



account regarding comparisons between Election Day registration activities in Montana 
and other states: 

♦ Montana has only been allowing Election Day registration for one election cycle 
(2006). Some other states have been offering this option for 10 years or more and 
this has likely contributed to a growing familiarity among voters and, possibly, a 
growing reliance on Election Day registration. The comparatively low percentage 
of registered voters in Montana using the option could, therefore, be related to a 
lack of familiarity and could increase in future election cycles. 

♦ Some other states using Election Day registration currently close the registration 
process 10 to 30 days prior to polling. If late registration is not an option prior to 
Election Day, the number of Election Day registrants may be artificially boosted. 
In Montana, voters could register right through the late registration period up to 
Election Day, so fewer voters would have needed to register on Election Day 
itself. 

♦ Election Day registration in other states is available in polling places, rather 
than being restricted to county election offices as is the case in Montana. The 
widespread availability of the option in locations close to voters' residences is 
probably part of the explanation for higher levels of Election Day registrations 
in other states. 

It is difficult to predict whether Election Day registration in Montana is likely to result in 
more voters using this option, but based on experiences of other states it seems reasonable 
to assume this may be the case. Because Election Day registration in Montana is restricted 
to county election offices, and voter registration levels are already high it may be unlikely 
that the levels of activity seen in some other states will be repeated. However, it should 
be expected that there will be increases over the current levels of activity as more voters 
become aware of the option. Even if Montana's Election Day registration activity only 
reaches the minimum level seen in other states, this could mean up to 20,000 voters being 
processed at county election offices in future cycles. 

Any overall increases in late registration volumes or changes in the composition of the late 
registrant population could be problematic for election administrators. Given the problems 
evident during the 2006 election cycle, there is a potential for further issues to arise if 
late registration volumes increase. The experience of other states suggests several courses 
of action may have to be considered, depending on trends observed over the next few 
election cycles. These would include rolling-back late registration to some point prior to 
Election Day, addressing the resource and other needs of counties to help them manage 
late registration procedures better, or moving to a precinct-based process. 

Increase in Election Day Registrations May 
Require Further Legislation 

The SOS office can play an important role in monitoring trends in late registration, helping 
counties manage the administration of this process, and, where necessary, pursuing 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



statutory or other changes to address any future issues. In the event of continuing problems 
with county administration of late registrants, the SOS office could consider the need for 
rolling-back the late registration period to some point prior to Election Day. This option 
would relieve some of the stress on county election officials produced by dealing with both 
registration and voting on Election Day itself. Another option could involve the SOS office 
working with counties to examine late registration procedures and identify areas where 
improvements could be made. Addressing the need for investments or administrative 
improvements could allow counties to continue providing late registration on Election 
Day without any negative effects on regular voting activities. A third option could involve 
addressing the need to move towards a precinct-based system of late registration. This 
option would only be applicable where there is a significant increase in late registration 
volumes that could not be efficiently or effectively processed in county election offices. 
As used in some other states, precinct-based late registration would focus activities in 
polling places, leaving county election officials with more time to administer regular 
voting activities. 



Recommendation #8 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office monitor ongoing trends in 
late registration to determine the impacts on elections administration and, 
if needed, mitigate future impacts by: 

A. Rolling-back the late registration period to some point prior to Election Day; 
OR 

B. Providing additional resources or guidance to maintain current levels of 
effort in counties; OR 

C. Expanding late registration to a precinct-based procedure. 



33 

CHAPTER V - VOTING SYSTEMS 

Introduction 

A voting system is denned in Montana statute as "any machine, device, technology, or 
equipment used to automatically record, tabulate, or process the vote of an elector cast on 
a paper or non-paper ballot." The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) defines voting systems 
in a similar manner to include any equipment used to define ballots, cast and count votes, 
report and display results, and maintain and produce audit trail information for elections. 

Poor functionality, unacceptable and inconsistent error rates, and technological obsolescence 
in voting systems equipment was one of the major driving forces behind HAVA election 
reform efforts. In addition to mandating the replacement of several different types of voting 
systems equipment, HAVA also contains provisions designed to ensure a greater level of 
uniformity in the way voting systems are operated. 

HAVA Voting Systems Requirements 

HAVA mandates several changes in voting systems, which are summarized as follows: 

♦ Replacement of punch card and lever voting machines - HAVA requires 
states using punch card or lever voting machines replace this type of equipment. 
HAVA established a payment program for states using these types of equipment. 
State and/or local election officials were allowed to choose which type of voting 
systems equipment to use instead of the obsolete punch card and lever systems. 

♦ Ballot verification - voting systems should allow voters to verify their vote 
is valid and will be counted. Voters should be allowed to check their ballot for 
errors and request a replacement ballot if they make a mistake. HAVA also 
requires voting systems have the ability to identify over-votes (voting for more 
than one candidate for a single office). However, states using systems which do 
not allow for identification of over-votes can substitute public education efforts 
rather than upgrade systems. 

♦ Error rates - state voting systems must comply with standard error rates 
established by the Federal Election Commission. 

♦ Audit capacity - the system must produce a permanent paper record, which can 
be used in an audit capacity in the event of a recount. 

♦ Accessibility for individuals with disabilities - every precinct should have at 
least one voting machine accessible for individuals with disabilities (see Chapter 
VII addressing voting accessibility issues). 

♦ Alternative language accessibility - the system should provide alternative 
language accessibility as required under the Voting Rights Act. 

♦ Uniform definition of what constitutes a vote - states are required to establish 
uniform and nondiscriminatory standards defining what constitutes a valid vote 
and what will be counted as a vote for each category of voting system used in 
the state. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Montana's voting systems already met several of these requirements (for example, all voting 
systems use paper ballots and therefore already meet the audit capacity requirement). Other 
requirements were met through recent changes in state law (for example, Montana statute 
was revised to provide a uniform definition of what constitutes a valid vote). For other 
voting systems requirements, we conducted specific testing and analysis to determine the 
implementation status of these HAVA mandates in Montana. This chapter includes audit 
findings and recommendations relating to the following aspects of voting systems: 

♦ Replacement of obsolete voting systems. 

♦ Changes in Montana voting systems to allow for ballot verification by voters. 

♦ Assessment of error testing procedures for voting systems. 

Replacement of Obsolete Voting Systems 

At a minimum, HAVA requires states to replace obsolete voting systems technologies 
where they were still being used. The Act targets those types of voting machines with 
higher than normal error rates and which have been associated with poor performance. 
Replacement of the worst voting systems with more reliable equipment was a first step in 
ensuring some level of uniformity existed between states. 

Prior to or coinciding with passage of HAVA, the majority of Montana counties already 
used either optical scan or hand count voting systems. Both these methods were and still 
are permissible under the terms of the Act and there is no requirement for the state to 
replace these systems. Six Montana counties were using punch card systems, which did 
require action under HAVA. 

Montana has Implemented HAVA Voting Systems Replacement 

Montana was required to ensure voting systems used in these six counties were replaced 
prior to January 1, 2004. To effect these changes, the 58th Legislature passed House Bill 87, 
which revised statute to prohibit the use of punch card voting systems within the state. Under 
the terms of Montana's state HAVA plan, the Secretary of State's (SOS) office worked with 
counties to ensure punch card systems were replaced. Subsequent amendments to the state 
plan indicated the SOS office assisted five counties in the purchase of optical scan systems 
(the remaining county had already replaced the punch card system and was reimbursed). 



Conclusion 

The Secretary of State's office and county election officials have ensured 
obsolete voting systems have been replaced in accordance with the terms 
of the Help America Vote Act. 



Changes in County Voting Systems 

Voting system changes mandated under HAVA have resulted in further progress towards 
modernizing and upgrading elections equipment being used in many states. Changes in 
voting systems have been occurring over the past two decades as more states have adapted 



35 



new technologies to allow for greater polling place efficiency and faster vote tabulation. 
Since the early 1980s there has been a steady movement away from mechanical systems 
such as lever and punch card machines and traditional hand count or paper ballots. These 
legacy technologies are increasingly being replaced by either optical scan or electronic 
systems. 

With the changes in voting systems mandated under HAVA, Montana has achieved a greater 
level of uniformity in the types of processes and equipment used in elections. However, 
there are still important differences between the voting systems currently in use. In terms 
of voting systems, the state now supports three main types, discussed as follows: 

♦ Hand Count - the hand count voting system is also often referred to as the 
paper ballot system. This system does not use any type of automation to count or 
tabulate ballots. Voters mark traditional paper ballots, which are deposited and 
then collected for centralized counting. 

♦ Central Count Optical Scan - the optical scan system relies on electro- 
mechanical technology to scan pre-formatted and standardized paper ballots. 
The optical scan machine counts a vote when a voter fills-in the oval with a 
pencil to indicate a preference. The central count variant of this technology uses 
a single point of collection for all ballots within a county (usually the county 
courthouse). All ballots are scanned and counted after the close of polling. 
These systems cannot, however, be used to alert a voter to a voting error, as 
the scanning takes place centrally following the close of polls and not in the 
precinct. 

♦ Precinct Count Optical Scan - this variant of the optical scan system uses the 
same technology as the central count, but counties deploy multiple scanning 
units to different precincts. Voters also use standardized ballots, but they deposit 
the ballot in a scanner within the precinct. The advantage of this system is that 
the precinct counter can detect voter errors and alert the voter before they leave 
the polls, thus allowing electors the opportunity to correct mistakes. 

Twelve Montana counties use hand counts of traditional paper ballots. Nineteen counties 
use central count optical scan systems and twenty-five counties are now using the precinct 
count optical scan systems. County voting systems are shown in the following figure. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Figure 3 

Montana County Voting Systems by Type and Sub-Type 

November 2006 General Election 




County Voting System 

Hand Count 
J Central Count 
I Precinct Count 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Secretary of State's office records. 



The most common errors in the voting process are voting for more than one candidate 
for a single office (over-vote), and neglecting to make any vote for a given race (under- 
vote). Either over or under-votes can be conscious choices on the part of voters. However, 
both over and under-votes can also occur because of systemic error, i.e. problems with 
voting systems (as demonstrated in Florida in the 2000 elections and problems with punch 
card voting machines). The most common method of quantifying voting system errors 
is known as the residual vote. The residual vote is the combined total of votes that were 
not counted (both over and under-votes), and is calculated as the difference between the 
number of voters casting ballots in an election and the actual number of votes received by 
candidates. 



Analysis of Residual Voting Data 

Residual vote trends in Montana elections were analyzed using data compiled by the SOS 
office for statewide elections since 1992. For statewide races and federal contests between 
1992 and 2006 the rate of residual voting shows some degree of volatility. However, the 



37 



interesting feature of this data is the decline in the residual vote for the 2006 general 
elections, where only 1.15 percent of all votes cast were uncounted. This trend is illustrated 
for federal elections in the following table. 







Table 9 

Residual Vote Trend in Montana Federal Elections 

1992 through 2006 Election Cycles 








Election Year 


United States Senate 


United States House 




Residual Votes 


Residual % 


Residual Votes 


Residual % 


1992 


~ 


13,829 


3.31% 


1994 


9,068 


2.52% 


7,322 


2.04% 


1996 


9,742 


2.33% 


12,806 


3.07% 


1998 


~ 


7,182 


2.12% 


2000 


6,315 


1.51% 


7,395 


1.77% 


2002 


13,735 


4.04% 


8,951 


2.63% 


2004 


~ 


11,866 


2.60% 


2006 


4,556 


1.11% 


4,936 


1.20% 




Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Secretary of State's office records. 





The most obvious potential cause of the reduction in the residual vote for the 2006 elections 
was the competitiveness of the U.S. Senate race in this year. This race was carried with 
a relatively narrow margin of victory, indicating a highly competitive race that likely 
drew more committed voters to the polls and where there would be a reduced incidence 
of under-voting. Analysis of the residual vote percentages and other variables for federal 
and other statewide elections shows that although the competitiveness of an election is an 
important factor in reducing the residual vote, it is not the sole determinant. Another way 
of demonstrating this is to look at the 2006 U.S. House race, which was less competitive 
(the margin of victory in this race was over 80,000 votes or nearly 20 percent of the total). 
If the margin of victory accurately mirrored the residual vote, we should have seen an 
increased residual vote in the House race. However, the house residual vote also saw a 
dramatic decline in 2006, suggesting that other factors were important. 

Voting Systems and the Residual Vote in 2006 

There are many factors that could have affected the residual vote in 2006. In relation to 
HAVA, the two most important factors were changes in voting systems and the public 
education and voter information efforts conducted by SOS and local election officials. To 
determine whether voting systems played a role, we analyzed county residual vote levels. 
This approach allows us to distinguish between counties that use different types of voting 



07P-02 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



systems (hand count, central count optical scan, or precinct count optical scan systems). 
The following figure shows the average residual vote rate by county according to the voting 
system they used in the 2006 elections. 



Figure 4 
Residual Voting Trends by Voting System 



9% 
8% 
7% 

3 

| 6% 

3 5% 
■D 
"« 

£ *- 

3% 
2% 


4^\ 




1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 

Election Year 


Residual Vote Attribute 


Hand Count 


Central Count 


Precinct Count 




Residual Vote Rate 1992-2004 


2.87 % 


2.59 % 


2.93 % 


Residual Vote Rate 2006 


2.17 % 


1.36% 


1.18% 


Reduction in Residual Votes for 
2006 


24% 


47% 


60% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Secretary 
of State's office records. 



As shown, both the central count and precinct count optical scan counties experienced 
greater reductions in residual votes as compared with counties using hand counts. Counties 
using precinct counters also experienced greater reductions in residual votes when 
compared with counties using the central count optical scan system. These results lend 
credence to some academic studies of voting systems at the national level, which suggest 
precinct counters are more effective at reducing residual votes when compared with the 
central count system. More generally, the ability of the precinct counter system to actually 
identify voting errors prior to casting the ballot intuitively suggests there should be some 
associated reduction in the number of voting errors. 



Changes in election administration resulting from HAVA included the introduction of 
new precinct voting equipment and high profile efforts by election officials to educate 
the voting public about voting error and their ability to request replacement ballots. In 
combination, it is reasonable to suggest these changes did impact the level of residual 
voting in the state. While it may not be possible to determine how much influence changes 



39 



in equipment/technology had as opposed to the public education efforts, there is evidence 
in county election returns suggesting voting systems changes resulted in reduced number 
of residual voters and a clearer expression of voter intent. 



Conclusion 

Voter education efforts and voting systems changes introduced under 
HAVA contributed to a reduction in residual votes and a clearer expression 
of voter intent for the 2006 federal elections. 



Secretary of State Precinct Counter Purchase Program 

Montana elected to use some of the federal HAVA funding allocation to encourage 
purchase of precinct counter optical scan systems. This purchase program involved a 50:50 
funding match for counties that wanted to purchase precinct counter technology. The use 
of HAVA funding to encourage the move to precinct counter technology has promoted the 
use of these systems, but has also resulted in another difference between voters in different 
counties. The Montana electorate is now almost evenly divided by the ability of voters to 
receive a timely alert if they make a voting error (either by under or over-voting). 

Potential Impacts of Voting Systems on Montana Elections 

Due to the variance in observed residual vote levels for counties using different types of 
election equipment, there could be some impact on elections as a result of differences in 
voting systems. For the 2006 federal elections, results for the United States Senate and 
House races were recalculated to determine whether voting systems differences could 
have impacted the results. In both cases, the type of voting systems being used by counties 
would not have affected the actual result of these races. Given the potential for voting 
systems variations to impact residual voting levels, we also analyzed margins of victory for 
Montana legislative elections. Results from the 2006 Montana House of Representatives 
show that results in three house districts could have been impacted by differences in voting 
systems. 

It should be emphasized that there is no evidence changes in voting systems would have 
produced a different result in any legislative races. However, the fact that voters in these 
races were participating using voting systems which are different from those used in some 
other counties highlights an important disparity. Essentially, the chances of having your 
voting intent accurately expressed vary depending on which county the ballot is cast in. 
Voters residing in counties using precinct count voting systems have a slightly better 
chance of having their voting intent accurately expressed. 

Two-Tier Structure for Vote Counting Exists in Montana 

Disparities between county voting systems have always existed, as have the impacts of 
differences in the residual voting levels attributable to these systems. HAVA succeeded 
in prohibiting lever and punch card voting systems, but the availability of HAVA funds 
for precinct counter purchases has meant a continuation of what amounts to a two-tier 
structure for voting system in the state. This disparity has produced inequities between 
voters in different counties. These inequities are significant to the electoral process 



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regardless of whether any specific degree of variation can be assigned to residual voting 
levels for different voting systems. Currently, around half of Montana's 650,000 voters 
cast ballots using systems that can identify errors and allow the opportunity to change the 
ballot. The other half are not afforded this opportunity and, therefore, have an increased 
chance their intent will not be clearly expressed at the polls. 



Common Standard for Voting Systems 

Under HAVA, states are required to prohibit use of some voting equipment and adopt voting 
systems that allowed voters to identify and correct errors on their ballots. Montana has met 
the first part of this HAVA requirement, through replacement of obsolete systems. As a 
paper ballot state, Montana was allowed to meet the second requirement through a public 
education campaign on identification and correction of ballot errors. Public education 
efforts could, therefore be used as a substitute for the controls provided by precinct count 
and similar systems. For the Montana counties that did not participate in the precinct 
counter purchase program, public education efforts were the sole means of complying with 
these HAVA requirements. 



41 



Survey Results Support Precinct Count Benefits 

We asked county officials to provide input on changes in voting systems resulting from 
HAVA, including the efficacy of public education efforts and precinct counter purchases. 
Results for selected questions are included in the following table. 



Table 10 
Survey Responses Relating to Voting Systems Changes 



Question 


Response Options 


Response 
Percentage 




Do you think public 
education efforts have 
resulted in lower rates of 
under and over-voting and 
other voting errors? 


Substantially lower rates of error 


0% 


Slightly lower rates of error 


5% 


No significant effect on error rates 


54% 


Probably increased error rates 


5% 


Don't Know 


36% 




In your experience has the 
introduction of precinct 
counting equipment helped 
to reduce the number of 
over and under-votes cast 
in elections? 


Yes - substantial reduction in voting errors 


32% 


Yes - slight reductions in voting errors 


32% 


About the same 


21% 


No - increase in voting errors 


10% 


Don't Know 


5% 




In your experience has the 
introduction of precinct 
counting equipment made 
administration of elections 
more efficient? 


Yes 


84% 


No 


16% 


Don't Know 


0% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county election officials. 



For those counties using hand counts and central counts, the SOS office was required 
to meet HAVA provisions relating to voting errors by conducting public education/voter 
outreach efforts. Survey responses show county election officials were generally neutral 
regarding these efforts and do not think there has been a significant impact on error rates. 
Election officials in counties using precinct counter voting systems were more certain 
regarding the impact of these systems on reducing voter errors. Around two thirds of 
respondents said precinct counters reduced voter errors either significantly (32 percent) 
or slightly (32 percent). Twenty-one percent of respondents saw no change in voter error 
and ten percent thought errors may have increased. A larger majority of respondents 
supported the view that precinct counter equipment has improved the efficiency of election 
administration (84 percent). 



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Financial Concerns Prevent Counties from 
Adopting New Voting Systems 

Survey responses also show the biggest concern for counties that did not make the change 
to precinct counting was the lack of county financial support for the additional expenses 
involved in buying the precinct count equipment. Nearly three-quarters of respondents 
(73 percent) indicated a cost/benefit analysis did not support the additional expense and half 
said there was no county funding available to match the HAVA funds. Survey responses 
appear to indicate that the transition to precinct counter voting systems will likely remain 
incomplete where barriers exist at the local level. 

Secretary of State's Office Should Plan Transition 
to Common Standard for Voting Systems 

Montana has not moved towards a common standard for voting systems and has instead 
relied on an approach where counties could choose to participate in a program to upgrade 
equipment. The SOS office used available HAVA funding to provide a match for county 
investments in new technology, but the program was based on voluntary participation 
and was always going to be reliant on the availability of local funding. The result of this 
approach is a variety of different standards for voting systems. The efforts of state and 
local election officials to educate the voting public regarding voting errors should not be 
overlooked and have probably had some impact on reducing residual votes, but it is not 
clear whether these activities can or will be conducted on a long-term basis. 

The SOS office has both a unique perspective on the state's electoral process and a unique 
responsibility under state law for ensuring a degree of uniformity between counties. The 
office is also responsible for effectively implementing federal elections laws, including 
HAVA. The issue of disparities in voting systems demands a uniform response and a 
coordinated approach, which only the SOS office can provide. Applying common standards 
to county voting systems will ensure all votes have an equal chance of being counted 
regardless of where they are cast. 

Transitioning to a common standard for voting systems will involve a long-term 
commitment, whereas HAVA set short-term deadlines and paid limited attention to 
future needs. The SOS office should begin developing a long-term approach to actively 
managing the assessment and deployment of new voting technologies. The office should 
begin by prioritizing availability of remaining HAVA funds for the purposes of assisting 
counties in purchases of precinct counter equipment. Approximately $850,000 in HAVA 
grant funding has already been expended for precinct counter purchases. We estimate an 
additional $790,000 in matching grants for counties would be required to provide precinct 
counting capabilities in all polling places. Matched by counties at the current 50:50 ratio, 
this would mean total additional investments of approximately $1.57 million. Ultimately, 
counties retain the right to determine whether to make these investments and some local 
government will prefer to defer decisions pending further developments in voting systems 
technology. However, we believe the SOS office should continue to actively assist those 
counties wishing to transition to systems offering better degrees of accuracy. 



43 



Establishing a level playing field for voting systems is accomplished in part through the 
Montana state HAVA plan, which budgeted funds for precinct counter purchases. The SOS 
office can continue to pursue a common technological standard in voting systems as a 
strategic priority by establishing goals and objectives relative to the replacement of legacy 
voting systems and the introduction of next generation systems. This could involve setting 
targets for reducing the numbers of counties using systems with significantly different 
capabilities and assessing progress towards these goals. Another consideration could be 
the need to establish defined timeframes for technical obsolescence of particular systems. 
For example, advances in electronic voting systems may mean optical scan systems will 
be technically obsolescent within 10 years and no further purchases should be considered 
after a defined period of time. Given the importance and complexity of these issues, it may 
also be appropriate for the SOS office to seek further legislative guidance relative to voting 
systems. 



Recommendation #9 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office continue its efforts to 

transition Montana counties to a common standard for voting systems 

by: 

A. Prioritizing availability of remaining HAVA funds for upgrading county voting 
systems equipment; AND 

B. Establishing a common technological standard for voting systems as a 
strategic priority for the office; AND 

C. Determining the need for further legislative guidance relative to voting 
systems. 



Voting Systems Error Testing 



Both the growing variety and technological sophistication of voting systems pose 
challenges for election administrators. Unlike some other states, however, Montana has 
not moved towards adoption of paperless electronic voting systems. These systems have 
been subject to intense scrutiny regarding their security and reliability, and the ability 
to audit results and test for errors. Although Montana has so far avoided many of these 
problems, vote counting in many counties still relies on the accuracy of different types of 
voting equipment. 

Montana Statute Establishes Voting System Testing Standards 

HAVA established requirements for minimum error rates for voting systems and Montana 
elections laws also outline testing requirements for equipment. These statutory standards 
highlight the fact that regular testing of voting systems components is an essential feature 
of any well-maintained electoral process. Section 13-17-212, MCA, requires the SOS office 
ensure at least 10 percent of the state's voting systems are tested and certified each calendar 
year. 

Review of SOS office voting system testing procedures showed the office developed and 
implemented procedures for calendar year 2006. These procedures involved obtaining 
and reviewing testing and certification documents submitted by four different counties. 



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Counties submitted signed certifications showing testing was performed on various types 
of voting equipment, including Automark assisted voting machines and optical scan 
precinct counter and central counter ballot scanners/tabulators. 

Testing Procedures Do Not Ensure Statewide Coverage 

State law requires the SOS office ensure at least 10 percent of the state's voting systems 
have been randomly tested and certified on an annual basis. SOS has addressed this 
requirement by developing a process for randomly reviewing testing and certification 
documents from counties. The SOS office has interpreted statutory guidance to mean 
testing of the totality of the state's voting systems, rather than testing applicable to each 
type of different system. This approach provides a good level of testing coverage, but may 
exclude some less common types of systems from testing or result in some systems not 
meeting the 10 percent threshold. 

To properly test functionality for the state's voting systems, the SOS office should develop 
procedures based on the sub-populations of different types of systems used around the 
state (this would include Automarks, M-100 Precinct Counters, M-650 Central Counters 
and other types of central count tabulators). 



Recommendation #10 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office revise voting system testing 
procedures to ensure all the different types of elections equipment used 
in the state are included in the office's random testing procedures. 



45 



CHAPTER VI - PROVISIONAL AND 

ABSENTEE VOTING 



Introduction 



Civic participation has traditionally been a guiding principle of the electoral process. The 
process of traveling to and casting a ballot in a local polling place along with other voters 
registered in the precinct is a shared experience for all citizens. While there are many 
benefits in this shared civic experience, there have also been recent attempts to introduce 
flexibility and choice in the traditional polling place voting model. The Help America Vote 
Act (HAVA) requires all states provide provisional voting, which provides voters a fail-safe 
voting method if there is some kind of problem with their registration status. HAVA also 
contains provisions designed to facilitate absentee voting for certain voters, contributing 
to efforts to make voting available outside of the local precinct polling place. 

Both provisional and absentee voting are designed to make the process easier, more 
accessible to more voters and, ultimately, to increase participation. Montana elections 
laws have been revised in recent years to introduce the concept of provisional voting and 
to widen the availability of absentee voting. Changes relating to provisional voting were 
introduced to comply with HAVA requirements, but expanded availability of absentee 
voting is unrelated to the act. Montana has joined other states in allowing 'no excuse' 
absentee voting and has seen a substantial increase in absentee ballots. As is the case with 
late registration, changes in absentee voting procedures have introduced an important new 
dynamic to Montana elections and were addressed in our review of HAVA. 

Provisional Voting 

HAVA established provisional voting to allow individuals claiming to be legally registered 
to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional voting can be used in a variety of circumstances 
where there is some question regarding the registration status of a voter (for example, a 
voter claiming to be registered whose name does not appear on the register can cast a 
provisional ballot). Provisional ballots are segregated from regular ballots and are only 
counted where the registration status of the individual can be positively verified following 
the close of polls. HAVA also requires states to provide a means for individuals who cast 
provisional ballots to ascertain whether the vote has been counted. HAVA specifies a free 
access system must be available for this process. 

Provisional Voting Data for Montana Elections 

Provisional voting was introduced for the 2004 General Election in Montana. The Secretary 
of State's office submits information on provisional voting to the federal government 
following each federal election in the state. The following table shows the number of 
provisional votes received and counted for the 2004 and 2006 general elections. 



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Table 11 

Provisional Voting Data 

2004 and 2006 Federal Elections 



Election Year 


2004 


2006 


Provisional Votes Cast 


623 


2,242 


Provisional Vote Rate 


0.1% 


0.55% 


Provisional Votes Counted 


378 


2,133 


Provisional Vote Count Rate 


51% 


95% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division 
from Secretary of State's office and Election 
Assistance Commission records. 



There was a significant increase in the number of provisional votes cast between the 
2004 and 2006 elections. Not only has the provisional voting rate increased, the count rate 
for provisional ballots has also increased from 51 percent to 95 percent. These changes in 
provisional voting data are likely linked to three developments seen in the 2006 elections: 

♦ Absentee voting - there was a large increase in the number of absentee voters in 
2006 and a corresponding increase in the number of absentee voters attempting 
to vote in polling places (see sections below). A proportion of the increase 
in provisional voting was likely generated by absentee voters being issued 
provisional ballots in polling places, pending determination of the status of their 
absentee ballots. 

♦ Late registration - around 4,000 voters registered or changed registration 
details on Election Day as a result of the introduction of late registration (see 
Chapter IV). Some of these voters may have been provisionally registered, 
contributing to the increased number of provisional ballots issued. In addition, 
the availability of late registration at election administrator's offices likely 
decreased the number of unregistered individuals voting in precincts using 
provisional ballots. In 2004, these provisional ballots for unregistered voter 
would have been rejected, contributing to the lower count rate as compared with 
2006. 

♦ Late poll closure - more than 10 counties reported keeping polls open after 8 p.m. 
on Election Day to deal with late registration voters at election administrator's 
offices. These voters were issued provisional ballots as required under HAVA 
and this likely contributed to the increase in provisional ballots issued. 

Election Observations and Survey Results 

Observations of voting during the 2006 General Election by audit staff did not identify any 
specific issues with provisional ballots. Observational data indicated use of provisional 



47 



ballots in polling places was limited, provisional ballots were generally being issued in 
appropriate circumstances, and the majority of poll workers had a good knowledge of 
provisional voting procedures. 

The generally positive picture of provisional voting provided by our Election Day 
observations was confirmed in survey responses from county election officials. 
Approximately 60 percent of county election officials have a positive view (rated as good 
or excellent), of the efforts of the Secretary of State's (SOS) office to provide information 
and advice on provisional voting. Survey responses also show the majority of county 
election officials believe there is some level of awareness among voters in relation to 
provisional ballots. In relation to provisional ballot issuance, survey responses were 
almost completely uniform regarding the issuance of either a regular or provisional ballot 
in different circumstances. This suggests there is a good level of understanding among 
county officials regarding the appropriate use of provisional ballots. Most of the counties 
also provided voters with multiple means of contacting election administrators regarding 
their provisional ballots. In nearly all cases, counties appear to have taken actions which 
allow for a free access system to provisional ballot information for voters. 

Provisional Voting is Working Well in Montana 

Review of voting data, elections observations and survey of county elections officials 
suggest there have been no significant problems with the introduction of HAVA provisional 
voting requirements in Montana. The relatively low incidence of this type of voting has 
probably contributed to the lack of concerns over its use, as has a good level of uniformity 
among election administrators regarding provisional voting requirements. The number of 
provisional votes cast in 2006 elections increased substantially over the previous election 
cycle, but there was a corresponding increase in the rate at which these provisional votes 
were verified and counted. 



Conclusion 

The provisional voting requirements of the Help America Vote Act have 

been successfully introduced in Montana and appear to be functioning as 

intended. 



Absentee Voting 



Changes in Montana's absentee voting provisions date to the late 1990s when certain 
restrictions on voting absentee were lifted. Montana joined other states in introducing 'no 
excuse' absentee voting that allows any voter to request an absentee ballot regardless of 
whether they have a justification for not voting in a polling place. These changes are often 
viewed as a means of addressing declining participation by making it easier for people 
to cast votes outside of the normal polling place procedures. Subsequently, Montana also 
changed state law to establish permanent absentee voting, which allows a voter to elect to 
receive an absentee ballot for every election without specifically requesting the absentee 
option for each electoral event. 



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Although not directly related to HAVA, moves towards an expansion of absentee voting 
have been informed, at least in part, by the motives driving federal elections reform; 
namely, attempts to increase voting accessibility and participation. Absentee voting has 
grown significantly in popularity over the past few election cycles and has also, become a 
significant factor in any analysis of election reform efforts linked to HAVA. 

Absentee Voting Data 



HAVA mandates collection and reporting of absentee ballot data by all election jurisdictions 
for each federal election cycle. As a result, there is good information available for the last 
two federal elections (2004 and 2006), but prior to these years data for absentee ballots 
requested, received and counted are harder to find. Absentee ballot data was collected for 
the 2000, 2004, and 2006 elections and is shown in the following table. 



Table 12 
Montana Absentee Voting Data 
2000, 2004 and 2006 Elections 



Election 
Year 


Absentee Votes 
Counted 


Polling Place 
Votes Counted 


Absentee 
Percentage 




Absentee 

Ballot Count 

Rate 


2000 


64,723 


356,193 


15% 


NA 


2004 


99,430 


356,666 


22% 


95% 


2006 


119,894 


291,167 


29% 


92% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Secretary of State's office and Election Assistance 
Commission records. 



As shown, there has been a significant increase in absentee voting between 2000 and 2006. 
In the 2006 elections nearly one third of the electorate voted absentee, rather than casting 
a ballot in a polling place. The number of absentee voters has nearly doubled since 2000 
and as a result absentee voting procedures now constitute a significantly more important 
feature of Montana's elections process than was previously the case. 

Absentee ballots show a drop-off rate in terms of the number of ballots requested 
(equivalent to turnout), the number received (ballots cast), and the number counted (actual 
votes). For the state as a whole, there has been a decline in the absentee ballot count rate 
(proportion of requested ballots that are actually counted) between the 2004 and 2006 
elections. Basically, this means fewer electors requesting absentee ballots are actually 
returning them and having them counted. 



2006 General Elections Observations 

Observations of the 2006 General Election by audit staff included assessment of the 
numbers of absentee voters visiting polling places on Election Day in an attempt to cast 
polling place ballots. Our observations showed around 5,000 absentee voters went to 



49 



polling places on Election Day rather than mailing/delivering an absentee ballot. Of this 
total, approximately 60 percent (roughly 3,000 voters) did not have an absentee ballot, 
either because they had claimed not to have received one in the mail or ever signed up for 
an absentee, or because they had misplaced, spoiled or destroyed their original absentee 
ballot. The remaining 40 percent (around 2,000) brought their absentee ballots with them 
to the polling place. 

For those absentee voters with no ballot there appeared to be a good level of uniformity 
in polling place procedures. Our observations indicated these individuals were either 
provided with a provisional ballot to vote, or poll workers made an effort to determine 
whether an absentee ballot had been received before making a decision on issuing a ballot. 
Ideally, all voters marked as absentee should be required to cast a provisional ballot, which 
can be segregated and verified at a later point to ensure double-voting does not occur. Our 
observations indicate this may not have occurred in every circumstance, but all indications 
suggest poll workers were following the correct procedures and issuing provisional 
ballots. 

Less uniformity was observed in how poll workers processed absentee voters arriving at a 
polling place with their original ballot. Around 43 percent of these voters were informed 
they could not vote the ballot in the precinct and were instructed to go to the county election 
administrator's office to vote their ballot. Remaining voters were permitted to cast their 
ballot in the precinct (it appeared most were allowed to deposit the ballot in the regular 
manner). From our observations, there did not appear to be anything distinguishing these 
absentee voters, other than the fact they attempted to vote in different polling places. Where 
some voters are allowed the option of voting in the precinct, while others are prevented 
from doing so, there is a risk that some ballots may not have been counted. 

Survey Results Reveal Inconsistencies in Absentee Voting Procedures 

We asked county election officials several questions relating to absentee voting. The survey 
included questions relating to the instructions county election officials provided poll 
workers on dealing with absentee voters in polling places. Survey responses for selected 
questions are summarized in the following table. 



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Table 13 
Survey Responses Relating to Absentee Voting 




Question 


Response Options 


Response 
Percentage 




What instructions 
did you give to chief 
election judges 
regarding absentee 
voters who had not 
received ballots? 


Send voter to county chief election administrator's office 


10% 


Allow the voter to vote a provisional ballot in the precinct 


65% 


Allow the voter to vote a regular ballot in the precinct 


5% 


Call election administrator to determine status of ballot 


20% 




What instructions 
did you give to chief 
election judges 
regarding absentee 
voters who had lost or 
spoiled their absentee 
ballot? 


Send voter to chief election administrator's office 


7% 


Allow the voter to vote a provisional ballot in the precinct 


63% 


Allow the voter to vote a regular ballot in the precinct 


10% 


Call election administrator to determine status of ballot 


15% 


Other 


5% 




What instructions 
did you give to chief 
election judges 
regarding absentee 
voters who came to 
polling places with 
their absentee ballot 
and wanted to vote it 
in the precinct? 


Send voter to county chief election administrator's office 


7% 


Accept the absentee ballot as a regular ballot 


45% 


Accept the absentee ballot as a provisional ballot 


14% 


Destroy the original ballot and vote a regular ballot 


10% 


Accept absentee ballot, but separate from regular ballots 


14% 


Call election administrator to determine status of ballot 


5% 


Other 


5% 




Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county election officials. 



Survey responses show disparities in how county election officials are understanding and/ 
or implementing elections laws in relation to absentee voters. For all three scenarios 
presented to the county officials, there are significant differences in how different counties 
have been instructing poll workers relative to absentee voters. Responses showed very 
little uniformity in how poll workers had been instructed to deal with different situations, 
suggesting there is considerable risk voters in different counties will receive different 
treatment at the polls and experience different outcomes in terms of the voting process. 



Survey responses also showed differences between counties in terms of the types of 
information they provided in mailings to absentee voters. Significant numbers of counties 
did not include information on over-voting (38 percent) or ballot replacement (24 percent) 
in information included with absentee ballots. One of the concerns with the expansion 
of absentee voting is the reduced opportunities voters may have to access information 
regarding their voting rights. As defined under HAVA, state voting systems need to ensure 
voters have information on over-voting and their right to request replacement ballots in 
the event of a voting error. HAVA does not distinguish between the application of these 
standards to absentee voting and polling place voting, suggesting absentee voters need to 



51 



have access to the same information. The fact that a quarter of Montana's counties do not 
provide information on over-voting and ballot replacement for absentee voters is therefore 
problematic. 

Vulnerabilities Exist with Absentee Voting in Montana 

The increased popularity of absentee voting over the last few election cycles highlights this 
issue as a new area of vulnerability for elections administrators. With nearly one-third of the 
electorate requesting absentee ballots for the 2006 elections, this voting process should be 
subject to a greater level of scrutiny. Furthermore, the fact that absentee voting takes place 
outside of the normal oversight mechanisms applied during polling place voting should be 
recognized as a risk factor for electoral fraud. The findings of the National Commission 
on Federal Election Reform, which formed a significant part of the final HAVA legislation, 
identify absentee voting as the "most likely opportunity" for election fraud. 



Conclusion 

Increased levels of absentee voting and inconsistencies in absentee 
ballot procedures constitute an area of vulnerability for the administration 
of elections in Montana. 



Addressing Inconsistencies in Absentee Voting Procedures 

The decline in the return rate for absentee ballots noted in our data analysis could suggest 
the beginnings of problems with the correct issuance and processing of absentee ballots. 
Montana still compares well with national averages for absentee ballot counting, but left 
unchecked inconsistencies in absentee voting procedures could result in further declines in 
the count rate for absentee ballots. It should be possible to ensure a more uniform approach 
to processing absentee voters in polling places. Inconsistencies in processing of absentee 
votes result in unequal treatment of different voters and, potentially, reduced levels of 
participation and more uncounted ballots. Addressing these inconsistencies could ensure 
greater equity in how absentee voters are processed in different circumstances. 

Secretary of State Should Lead Efforts to Standardize Absentee Voting 

The SOS office has an important role to play in establishing a more standardized and 
uniform approach to these issues and communicating with county election officials 
regarding absentee voting. Concerns with absentee voting may not have been adequately 
addressed because this was one area of elections administration that was left relatively 
untouched by HAVA. Public education and poll worker training efforts have focused on new 
developments in elections administration directly relating to HAVA. Meanwhile, absentee 
voting has become an increasingly popular option among voters, but has not received a 
corresponding amount of scrutiny. The SOS office could remedy this situation by revising 
ongoing public education and poll worker training to emphasize correct procedures for 
handling absentee ballots in polling places. In addition, the SOS office should continue 
working with county election officials to ensure absentee voting communications meet 
common standards and contain sufficient information. 



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An additional area for consideration is the lack of clear guidance available in statute 
regarding the treatment of absentee ballots not delivered to county election offices. There 
is currently a presumption in statute that absentee ballots will be delivered to the county 
election office, so little guidance exists for situations where an absentee ballot is delivered 
to another location (for example, a precinct polling place). The SOS office should consider 
the need for further statutory clarification in this area. 



Recommendation #11 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office work with counties to 

address inconsistencies in the administration of absentee voting by: 

A. Revising public education and training efforts to provide increased emphasis 
on the absentee voting process; AND 

B. Reviewing county absentee voting communications to determine where 
required voter information could be standardized further; AND 

C. Where necessary, seeking statutory revisions to clarify treatment of absentee 
ballots received in different circumstances. 



53 



CHAPTER VII - POLLING PLACE 

ACCESSIBILITY 



Introduction 



For the 2004 elections, 120 million Americans cast ballots in over 115,000 different polling 
places around the country. A wide variety of buildings and locations serve as polling 
places. Montana currently has around 550 polling places, including schools, county and 
state government offices and buildings, churches, places of business, retirement homes, 
community halls, libraries, and even private residences. The importance of the physical 
accessibility of buildings and voting equipment is often underestimated in debates over 
participation in the electoral process. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) addressed 
several issues relating to the physical condition of polling places. HAVA provisions relating 
to polling places primarily addressed making facilities and equipment more accessible for 
people with disabilities. 

HAVA provisions relating to polling places were designed to mitigate barriers to voting 
imposed by the physical condition of buildings, and the quality of facilities and equipment 
provided for voters. HAVA provided funding to states for upgrading buildings used as 
polling places to allow for better access for people with disabilities. The Act also requires 
every state to ensure each polling place is equipped with a voting system accessible to 
people with disabilities. 



Audit Work Relating to Accessibility 

Audit work addressed two issues relating to accessibility. Findings and recommendations 
for the following areas are included in subsequent sections of this chapter: 

♦ HAVA-funded upgrades made to polling places to improve accessibility for 
people with disabilities. 

♦ Deployment and operation of Automark assisted voting technologies for people 
with disabilities. 



Polling Place Accessibility 



Although HAVA provided additional funding for states to ensure polling places are 
accessible for people with disabilities, the Act did not radically alter federal requirements in 
this area. HAVA encourages states to work towards making polling places more accessible, 
but stops short of imposing additional requirements. States still retain significant control 
over the establishment of accessibility standards for polling places. Montana has legislated 
to establish legal standards for polling place accessibility, including the requirement that 
all new polling places (those established after 2005) meet the Americans with Disabilities 
Act (ADA) accessibility requirements. All existing polling places are required to meet 
less stringent standards for accessibility. Importantly, Montana law also provides a means 
of permanently or semi-permanently exempting some polling places from accessibility 
standards. 



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Trends in Accessibility Status 

State election officials have been required to collect data on polling place accessibility since 
the mid-1980s as required under the federal Voting Accessibility Act. This information is 
compiled by counties following a self-assessment procedure conducted at polling places 
prior to each election. Montana statute establishes various designations for the degree of 
accessibility for polling places. The primary categories are: 



♦ Accessible (polling places meets accessibility standards). 

♦ Inaccessible (polling place does not meet accessibility standards). 

♦ Rural (polling place serves less than 200 registered electors and has been 
exempted from accessibility standards). 

Additionally, statute establishes an 'Exempt' designation for polling places that are 
inaccessible, but for which no easy replacement location can be found within the precinct. 
The following chart illustrates the trend in accessibility status for Montana polling places 
between the 1992 and 2006 elections. 



Figure 5 

Polling Place Accessibility Status 

1992 and 2006 Elections 



1992 



2006 




□ Accessible □ Useable ■ Inaccessible □ Rural □ Exempt 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Secretary of State's office records. 



Between 1992 and 2006 there has been an improvement in polling place accessibility 
for people with disabilities. According to SOS office data, accessible polling places now 
constitute 70 percent of the total, compared with around half in 1992. The number of 
polling places classified as either inaccessible or as inaccessible but useable has declined 
to 16 and 11 percent respectively. The proportion of polling places classified as either rural 
or exempt has remained essentially unchanged, suggesting there are a limited number 
of polling facilities that will likely continue to function without meeting accessibility 
requirements. 



55 

November 2006 General Elections Observations 

Observations conducted by audit staff during the November 2006 General Election included 
review of various accessibility factors for polling places visited. Overall, our polling 
observations showed around 40 percent of the facilities we visited during the November 
2006 elections provided unimpeded access to voting for an individual with a severe physical 
disability (such as use of a wheelchair). For around 20 percent of the polling places visited, 
we observed significant access issues that would normally be considered problematic for 
an individual with moderate to severe physical disability or visual impairment. For this 
20 percent of polling places, it is reasonable to assume that the access to the polling place 
constitute a barrier to voting for individuals with disabilities. Our observations show a 
slightly higher rate of inaccessible polling places as compared with information collected 
by the Secretary of State's office. However, it is likely that at least some of this difference 
is attributable to interpretation of the 'technically inaccessible, but useable' designation 
previously used in assessment of polling place accessibility by election officials. 

HAVA Accessibility Grant Program 

Montana's HAVA funding included $2 million to provide for improvements in polling 
place accessibility. SOS entered into a contract with a non-profit advocacy organization to 
administer a grant program for use by counties making improvements to their facilities. 
The grant process involves submission of applications from counties. Proposed projects and 
costs are assessed before approving the grant or requesting further information. Grants are 
limited to $5,000 per polling place and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. 
Counties must provide a 25 percent financial or in-kind match to receive funding. 

The accessibility grant program has committed around $809,000 of the original $2 million 
to projects which are either underway or pending approval. Further analysis of data 
from the accessibility grant program did identify some concerns with the method used 
to distribute and account for the funding. Grant applications were made on a voluntary 
basis and there was no requirement for counties to participate. As a result, some counties 
have not participated yet and some counties have not applied for as much grant funding 
as they may need. Three specific issues were identified from the application information 
submitted to date: 

♦ 5 of the 10 non-participating counties have existing polling places classified as 
either inaccessible or technically inaccessible, but useable. These polling places 
would benefit from improvements to accessibility features, but the county has 
not made any application for available funding. 

♦ 16 of the 46 participating counties have applied for grants for fewer polling places 
than may be necessary. Records show these 16 counties have a combined total of 
54 polling places classified as inaccessible, but have only made applications for 
improvements to a combined total of 18 facilities. 

♦ It was unclear what methods were being used to verify completion of work or 
assess the quality of accessibility improvements made by counties. Submission 
of a completion notice by counties has required, but agreements between the 



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SOS office and the contractor did not specify a methodology for inspecting or 
verifying completion of funded activities. The SOS office has recently made 
changes addressing this concern. 

The accessibility grant program has not been administered on the basis of need and has 
relied on the voluntary participation of counties. County election officials need to be able 
to provide match funding for accessibility projects and may also face difficulties upgrading 
facilities where the building owners do not want work to be performed. However, it is 
not clear from the information provided on the accepted and pending grants whether any 
determination has been made regarding unmet needs in specific counties. 

Survey Responses Relating to Accessibility Grants 

Survey responses showed the majority of county election officials were satisfied with the 
information and guidance they received regarding the accessibility grants program. These 
results also show there is probably a considerable amount of further work that will be 
required to ensure polling places are fully accessible for people with disabilities. Forty- 
three percent of county election officials said funding available for making improvements 
has not been sufficient to complete all the necessary work on polling places. A similar 
proportion of county election officials also said they will require further advice and 
assistance in making polling places accessible. 



Conclusion 

Montana has made good progress in accessibility of polling places. 
Continuing distribution ofHAVA grant funds could be prioritized to address 
unmet needs in counties. 



Ongoing Management of Accessibility 
Issues Required at the State Level 

The decentralized and cooperative approach taken by the SOS office to the distribution of 
HAVA accessibility funding has been beneficial to the ultimate goal of improving access for 
people with disabilities. Using a non-profit advocacy organization as grant administrator 
provides valuable expertise on accessibility issues, which may otherwise not have been 
available to the SOS office. The grant-based approach also ensured counties would be 
involved in the decision-making process and additional resources would be available 
through local match funding. 

We believe the SOS office could improve on the efforts made to date by focusing more on 
an active management role in accessibility issues in the future. In the short-to medium- 
term, the office could work with the contractor and county election officials to ensure 
remaining grant funding is distributed based on unmet needs in certain counties. It will 
also be necessary to conduct some level of follow-up review to ensure grant-funded work 
completed to date meets quality standards. In the longer-term, the office will need to 
continue prioritizing the need to remove remaining barriers to accessibility. As discussed 
above, only a small minority of polling places are likely to be permanently categorized as 
inaccessible. For the remaining polling places currently classified as inaccessible, the SOS 



57 



office should work with counties to establish reasonable expectations regarding eventual 
improvements or, where necessary, alternative locations. The SOS office has indicated 
they have already begun work on these changes. 



Recommendation #12 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office continue addressing polling 

place accessibility issues by: 

A. Working to identify unmet needs and prioritize allocation of remaining 
funding based on these needs; AND 

B. Establishing long-term goals for reducing the number of remaining 
inaccessible polling places through upgrade or replacement. 



Automar k Assisted Voting Machines 



HAVA requires each state's voting system be accessible for people with disabilities and 
for the blind and visually impaired. The Act also specifically requires that states meet 
this requirement by using at least one voting system in each polling place that allows the 
required level of accessibility. In Montana's case this was achieved through the purchase 
of the Automark voting system. Montana elections laws were revised in 2005 to include 
specific references to assisted voting technologies such as Automark. 

Purchase and Deployment of Automarks 

HAVA does not allow states to meet voting system accessibility compliance standards 
through any means other than the actual provision of equipment in every polling place. 
There is no waiver process and no polling places are exempted from the requirement, 
regardless of size or other factors. The SOS office was responsible for the purchase and initial 
deployment of Automarks. Automarks were provided for every polling place at no initial 
cost to counties. The SOS office worked with the disabilities community as well as other 
organizations in the process of selecting the Automark system. Due to the specifications of 
the system and availability of vendors, the SOS office entered into a sole source purchase 
agreement to provide the system. The terms of the contract are summarized as follows: 

♦ 725 Automarks were purchased at a unit cost of $5,000 for a total equipment cost 
of $3,625 million. 

♦ Software and other applications used to operate the Automarks were included in 
the contract at a price of $28,000. 

♦ The contract provided for systems support and service including project 
management, training and Election Day technical services at a cost of 
$288,200. 

♦ Installation, shipping and handling charges of $101,500. 

The total expenditures involved for purchase, installation, testing, training and 
maintenance of the Automark system through the 2006 general election were $4,042,700. 



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These costs were met directly through the HAVA grant and were not allocated to counties. 
Funding system operations and maintenance in future election cycles will be a county 
responsibility. 

Functionality and Security Testing 

To perform some basic functionality and security testing, we obtained an Automark 
system being used as a demonstration model by the SOS office. The system was tested for 
basic functionality and to determine whether it was secure from inappropriate access and 
tampering. 

Automark Functionality - to use the Automark, the voter enters a regular 
paper ballot into a slot on the front of the device. The Automark scans (reads) 
the ballot to determine if it is the correct ballot for the precinct. Different races 
and ballot initiatives appear on a screen in consecutive order. The voter can vote 
for each measure by touching the screen or using a key pad. Once one measure 
has been voted on, the voter clicks a next arrow and a new measure will appear. 
The voter has the option to return to previous measures at any point. Once the 
voter has completed the process, the Automark displays all their choices and 
asks them to review their votes. If everything is correct, the voter will notify the 
Automark, and the votes will be printed on the ballot and returned to the voter. 
It is then the responsibility of the voter to submit the ballot to the ballot box. 

Security Testing - audit staff performed various tests on the demonstration 
model to determine whether the system was vulnerable to tampering or other 
misuse that could affect how votes were cast or counted. Overall, we found the 
Automark presents a relatively low risk for misuse or fraud. Primarily, this is 
because the Automark system does not use internal memory to store or transmit 
votes. The system merely allows a voter to use an electronic interface to mark 
a paper ballot, which is then deposited for counting in the normal manner. The 
only way ballot information could be manipulated would be to change data 
stored on the device's flash memory card. Testing shows the system is equipped 
to prevent unauthorized access of the stored ballot choices. The primary system 
weaknesses of Automark appear to be related to the ability to disable the device 
or physically access the flash memory device (see section below on securing the 
Automark during polling). 

Automark Observations for 2006 General Election 

Election Day observations by audit staff included assessment of Automark deployment 
and usage. Information and data gathered on Election Day included observations of voters 
requesting to use Automark machines, and questions for chief election judges regarding 
use of the systems and any technical problems. We used this information to estimate the 
number of voters using the new systems and to compile information on the deployment 
and operation of the systems by counties. Election Day observations for Automark systems 
are summarized in the following table. 



59 



Table 14 

Election Day Automark Use and Operation 

November 2006 General Election 



Election Day Automark Observations 


Voters Requesting Automark Use 


2,343 


Polling Places Reporting Automark Use 


40% 


Polling Places With No Functioning Automark 


8% 


Polling Places Reporting Automark Technical Problems 


36% 


System Operation Keys Left in Machine 


34% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from Election Day poll observation data. 



Observational data from the 2006, General Election highlights three issues relating to the 
deployment and operation of the Automark systems: 

Use of Automarks -usage levels for the Automark system were relatively low. Our estimates 
show that the system was used by around 2,300 voters throughout the state and that use 
was only reported in 40 percent of polling places. Automark is a new technology and usage 
rates probably suffered due to a lack of awareness or familiarity with the system. 

Operational and technical problems - our observations indicated widespread technical 
problems with the Automark systems. We estimate that around 45 polling places (8 percent) 
did not have a functioning Automark available, either because poll workers did not setup 
the device or because it malfunctioned and was shutdown. Additionally, 36 percent of the 
polling places we visited reported technical problems with the operation of the systems. 
The most common technical problems reported during our observations related to the 
system's ballot printing mechanisms. 

System operation keys - around one third of the systems we observed on Election Day 
were being used with the system operation keys still in the machine and accessible to voters. 
Automarks have an operational key to turn the system on/off, and also have a separate 
barrel-type key to access the system memory card. Leaving either of these keys in the 
machine allows anybody within the polling place to disable the device, either by shutting it 
down or removing or tampering with the ballot information stored on the memory card. 

Survey Responses Relating to Automarks 

Our survey of county election officials contained a section devoted to the deployment and 
operation of the Automark systems. Various questions were asked in order to determine 
whether county election officials were satisfied with the processes used to deploy the 
systems, what kind of training they provided for poll workers, and their operational 
experiences with the Automarks. The following table summarizes survey responses for 
selected questions. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Table 15 
Survey Responses Relating to Automark Systems 



Question 


Response Options 


Response 
Percentage 




Did the Secretary of State's office provide 
you and your staff with sufficient training 
and technical guidance relating to the 
operation of the Automark? 


Yes 


81% 


No 


19% 




Did any of your polling places 
experience any of the following 
technical problems with the 
Automarks? 


Failure to start 


18% 


Unable to read test ballot 


21% 


Incomplete or inaccurate ballot 
data 


8% 


Ballot scanning problems 


42% 


Ballot printing problems 


76% 


Paper ballot jamming 


71% 


Incorrect marking of ballot 


26% 


Unexplained shutdown or power 
failure 


18% 


Other 


16% 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county election 
officials. 



The highlighted survey results show county election officials were satisfied with the level 
of training and guidance they received from the SOS office in relation to the Automarks. 
Over 80 percent thought the SOS office provided sufficient training and technical guidance. 
However, large numbers of counties also reported technical difficulties with the Automark 
devices on Election Day. Survey responses relating to technical problems show the most 
common faults reported with Automarks were related to the paper ballot printing/marking 
system functions. Problems with ballots scanning incorrectly, printing incorrectly 
or jamming in the print mechanism were the most common faults. Observational data 
from polling places also indicated many printing problems were caused by poll workers 
neglecting to remove the perforated tabs from ballots. Fortunately, there appeared to be 
relatively low incidence of system malfunctions of a more serious nature, such as incorrect 
ballot data displays or incorrect ballot marking. 

Improvements Needed in Operation of Automark Systems 

The introduction of new voting technology is always going to be a matter of concern and 
a cause of some errors at the polls. A lack of familiarity with a new technology on the part 
of poll workers and the voting public can lead to problems with the successful operation 
of new systems. The deployment of the Automark system for the 2006 election cycle is 
illustrative of this general point. In some senses, it was inevitable this new system would 
run into problems in its first real test at the polls. 



61 



Automark Technology is Innovative, but has Weaknesses 

Problems with the operation of Automarks should not overshadow the fact that this is an 
innovative technology that has allowed voters with disabilities and visually impaired voters 
to exercise their democratic rights in an independent manner. Prior to the introduction of 
assisted voting technologies, people with disabilities faced significant barriers to voting in 
an independent manner that assured their right to privacy. 

The Automark system does, however, have certain inherent weaknesses and counties 
will likely face continuing difficulties with its operation. Because Montana law requires 
a paper ballot be used in all elections, the Automark system must be equipped with the 
functionality and features to allow for a paper ballot to be scanned and printed. By necessity 
this involves mechanical parts that would otherwise be missing from a direct recording 
electronic device, which stores and transmits voter preference through internal memory. 
The need to manually feed, scan and print a paper ballot means the Automark has moving 
mechanical parts that will jam, stick or otherwise fail at inconvenient times. 



Conclusion 

Widespread operational problems with the Automark system should be 

addressed to ensure successful future use of this innovative technology. 



Familiarity Should Remedy Some Problems 

Inherent weaknesses with the Automark system were probably exacerbated during the 
2006 elections by a lack of familiarity with the equipment among poll workers. Documents 
provided by SOS and survey responses from county election officials indicate there was 
sufficient and relevant training provided for poll workers regarding the Automark. This 
training and guidance was available in several different forms. One area of weakness with 
the information supplied to front-line poll workers could be the fact that the instructions 
provided with each Automark were on CD and were probably not available within polling 
places where they could have been useful in remedying some simple operational errors. 

More exposure to use of the Automark, familiarity with system operations and increased 
trust in newer voting technologies should help to remedy some of the problems seen in this 
election cycle. It should also be expected that as the system becomes a more accepted and 
recognized feature in polling places, there could be some increase in the levels of use seen 
during the 2006 elections. 

SOS Should Provide Specific Written Instructions on Automark Use 

Although responsibility for Automark system operations and maintenance now rests solely 
with county election officials, there is still a role for the SOS office providing guidance on 
system operations. Specifically, the current version of the Election Judges Handbook could 
be updated to include a brief Automark installation and troubleshooting guide. Provision 
of Automark is a requirement of HAVA and, therefore, is a legal responsibility county 
election officials must bear in future elections. Continuing widespread problems with 
the operation of the system must be remedied if counties are to avoid exposure to legal 
challenges by or on the behalf of voters with disabilities. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Recommendation #13 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office update the Election Judges 
Handbook to include specific written instructions on installation and 
operation of Automark voting systems during polling. 



63 

CHAPTER VIM - FUNDING ELECTION 



REFORM 



Introduction 



The last few election cycles in Montana have seen some of the most significant changes 
in voting procedures in a generation. In addition to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), 
election officials have been required to implement further changes in elections laws, such 
as late registration and expanded absentee voting. HAVA has fundamentally altered the 
state's electoral process and its effects will be noticeable for many years. The original 
federal legislation imposed deadlines on states, which basically envisioned a two to three 
year implementation period for the changes outlined in HAVA. Our review of the impacts 
in Montana resulting from HAVA suggests this timeframe was generally unrealistic. In 
reality, state and county election officials will be dealing with the effects of HAVA for 
many years. 

Funding and the Future of Elections in Montana 

In addition to imposing new costs for elections administration, HAVA has also re-balanced 
authority and responsibilities between state and county election officials. The Act has 
created new responsibilities for states, some of which must be met by the chief elections 
officer, rather than local election officials. The extent to which changes in funding needs 
and operational responsibilities have been recognized in Montana is the subject of this 
final chapter. 

The following sections outline information relating to future funding requirements for 
HAVA in Montana and include discussion of the following: 

♦ Secretary of State's (SOS) office budgets and expenditures for HAVA-related 
activities. 

♦ Input from county election officials regarding HAVA funding requirements. 

♦ Continuing viability of Montana's elections funding structures. 



HAVA Budgets and Expenditures 



To date, the SOS office has expended approximately 80 percent of the original HAVA 
federal grant. As anticipated in the original state HAVA plan, the largest expenditures 
have been made in two areas; polling place and voting system accessibility (including the 
purchase of the Automark systems), and the statewide voter registration system (SVRS). 
The following table shows budgeted expenditures, expenditures to date, and remaining 
budget amounts for the main HAVA activity categories included in the state plan. 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



Table 16 

HAVA Expenditures versus Budgets 

Through May, 2007 



HAVA Budget Category 


Budgeted 
Expenditures 


Expenditures 
to Date * 


Remaining 
Budget 


Polling Place/Voting Accessibility 


$5,660,000 


$5,126,133 


$533,867 


Statewide Voter Registration 
System 


5,303,593 


5,339,183 





Voting Systems 


1,840,887 


977,323 


863,564 


Education & Training 


2,113,223 


1,551,983 


561,240 


Administration 


332,296 


328,295 


4,001 


Future Contingency ** 


2,111,483 


- 


2,111,483 


Total 


$17,361,482 


$13,322,917 


$4,038,565 



* Expenditures reported by the Secretary of State's office by HAVA budget category do not equal total expenditures 
reported in SABHRS as included in Chapter I of this report. 

"Future contingency includes ongoing SVRS maintenance costs. 

Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from SABHRS and Secretary of State's office records. 



As shown, unexpended funds remain in most of the main budget categories, with the 
exception of SVRS development. Specific issues relating to each budget category are 
discussed as follows: 

Accessibility -total expenditures associated with purchase and deployment of the Automark 
systems should total around $4 million, once the vendor contract is closed. Remaining 
budgets and expenses are associated with accessibility grants and related outreach efforts. 
The SOS office has stated responsibility for future Automark maintenance and operations 
will be a county responsibility. Any remaining funding currently assigned to accessibility 
improvements could be used to provide further physical improvements to polling places, 
to conduct more outreach among the disabilities community, or could be reassigned as 
necessary to other activities. 



SVRS - systems development work appears to be largely complete and the SOS office has 
already decided to handle support tasks internally, rather than relying on a vendor contract. 
SVRS development has been completed mostly in line with budgetary expectations, but 
the SOS office will need to meet continuing resource demands in this area associated with 
ongoing system maintenance and training. 



65 



Voting Systems - expenditures to date include approximately $885,000 for county precinct 
counter purchases. Potentially, this leaves over $850,000 in funding available for further 
improvements in county voting systems. 

Education & Training - the SOS office has conducted extensive public education and poll 
worker training efforts using HAVA funding. Expenditures to date leave around $560,000 
in available funding, much of which will probably be depleted through the next election 
cycle. SOS office education and training efforts have generally been well-received and 
their importance has been highlighted in several sections of this report. It is unclear what 
further efforts the SOS office may have to undertake in this area. 

Administration - the SOS office has expended most of the funds available for 
administrative purposes, i.e. purely administrative tasks carried out by SOS office staff, 
which are unrelated to any specific aspect budgeted in other areas. 

Future Contingency - the original state plan budgeted around $1.3 million for future 
needs and unanticipated costs associated with HAVA implementation. Additionally, the 
HAVA federal special revenue fund has earned around $750,000 in interest since fiscal 
year 2003. During the 2007 legislative session, interest earnings on the HAVA account 
were appropriated to the SOS office for use in helping counties complete implementation 
of the act. 

Survey Results Relating to HAVA Funding 

We asked county election officials a series of questions relating to HAVA funding 
requirements. In relation to the funding available for implementing the Act, the majority 
of respondents thought Montana's HAVA funding allocation was insufficient (56 percent). 
Given the widespread criticism of HAVA as an under-funded mandate, it is unsurprising 
county election officials did not think sufficient funding was allocated. The majority of 
respondents also thought the funding was distributed between counties on an equitable 
basis (64 percent). 

One of the survey questions asked whether county election officials thought HAVA 
funding for specific activities was set at the right level. Results showed that for most of 
the main budgeted HAVA activities, counties were satisfied the funding amounts were 
appropriate. There was only one area where responses showed less consistency and this 
related to funding for election official and poll worker training. Around 45 percent of 
respondents said too little funding was dedicated towards training for election officials and 
poll workers. 

County Election Officials Assessment of Future Needs 

We also asked county election officials whether they anticipated future expenditures in 
certain areas relating to HAVA (these included polling place accessibility, Automark 
maintenance, voter education/outreach, poll worker training, SVRS support, and hiring 
additional elections staff). Respondents were asked to indicate what level of anticipated 
costs they faced. Only one county responding to our survey indicated they expected no 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



additional costs in any of the areas in question. All the rest of our respondents said they 
expected some level of future costs associated with HAVA. Results for specific areas are 
shown in the following figure. 



Figure 6 
Survey Responses Relating to Anticipated Future Expenditures 



Automark 

Poll WorkerTraining 

SVRS 
Extra Staff 

Accessibility Upgrades 
Voter Education 






~7~ 



I 



As 



ZZ1 



~Z1 



Assessment of Future County Expenditures 
□ None □Minimal DSome ■ Substantial 



Source: Compiled by the Legislative Audit Division from survey data collected from county election officials. 



Maintenance of the Automark voting system is clearly regarded by county election officials 
as being the most likely HAVA activity to result in further expenditures in the future. 
Counties will need to pay for regular maintenance of the Automark devices, purchase 
supplies and spare parts, and absorb additional costs associated with deploying and 
operating the machines for each federal election. Other areas anticipated to involve 
significant future expenditures for counties are poll worker training and SVRS support. 
HAVA has increased the complexity of elections and poll workers are required to be 
conversant in an increasingly large number of fairly complex procedures. County officials 
obviously foresee increased time and effort being necessary if poll worker training is to 
keep up with the demands of modern elections. In terms of SVRS operations, counties 
have probably benefited to some degree from being able to use a centralized system without 
paying for their own dedicated proprietary software applications. However, SVRS 
operations do require the active involvement of counties and there are likely to be ongoing 
costs for meeting security requirements and training staff in SVRS functionality. 



67 



Viability of Montana's Elections Funding Structure 

While it may be difficult to determine exactly how much added costs have resulted from 
HAVA, it is reasonable to assume that the Act has had the effect of making elections more 
complex and more expensive. Under Montana's current method for funding elections, 
ongoing costs associated with HAVA will be largely the responsibility of counties. The 
remaining HAVA funding allocated to Montana could provide some ongoing support for 
counties, but this is unlikely to last much beyond the next two election cycles. At the state 
level, the SOS office will have to continue funding operation and maintenance of the SVRS 
and find additional resources to meet the expanded oversight and reporting roles implicitly 
assigned under HAVA. Again, funding available through the original HAVA grant will be 
short-lived. 

Funding Sources and Assignment of Responsibility 
for Elections Reforms are Unclear 

Currently, it is not clear whether there has been sufficient analysis of or preparation for 
meeting HAVA and other elections reform efforts over the long term. County election 
officials have identified different areas where they expect to incur additional costs in 
implementation of HAVA provisions. In addition, the introduction of other elections 
reforms has resulted in additional costs, which must be met through county elections 
budgets. The SOS office has also assumed new responsibilities under HAVA, including the 
operation and maintenance of the statewide voter registration system. 

Best Practices Emphasize Long-Term 
Perspectives and Shared Responsibility 

Prior to the introduction of HAVA, the National Commission on Federal Election Reform 
highlighted the probability that elections reforms would likely result in a 30 to 40 percent 
increase in spending on elections administration nationwide. The commission also 
highlighted several principles in relation to allocation of costs for elections reforms. These 
principles included the necessity of calculating funding requirements on a long-term 
basis and of state governments assuming more responsibility for elections administration 
relative to counties. 

The Government Accountability Office also released a report prior to the introduction of 
HAVA addressing preparation for broad-based elections reform. This report was addressed 
to Congress and provided an analytical framework for assessing the merits of competing 
proposals for elections reform. One of the main elements of criteria identified by GAO 
was the affordability and sustainability of proposed election reforms. Specifically, the 
criteria relating to costs emphasized the need for an accurate assessment of initial outlays, 
evaluation of the long-term cost impacts, and assignment of responsibility between 
different levels of government (federal, state, and local). 

Montana's Experiences are not Consistent with Best Practices 

The long-term approach to funding of elections reform in Montana is not consistent with 
best management practices established at the national level. As a result, it is not clear 



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Montana Legislative Audit Division 



whether the impacts of HAVA and other elections reforms can be effectively mitigated 
over the long-term. At the state level, the SOS office has been assigned a more expansive 
role in elections administration, but no long-term funding source has been identified to 
ensure sufficient resources are devoted to critical activities, such as maintenance of the 
SVRS, oversight and reporting of enforcement of voting rights, or handling complaints. 
Within the SOS office, elections activities are funded through the main business services 
account, a small proportion of which is actually sourced from activities related to elections 
(candidate filing fees and sales of voter registration lists). The office requested increases in 
fees during the 2006 Legislative session, but this request was not successful. The office's 
responsibilities relative to elections are increasing, but there has been no corresponding 
change in the fee structure for the office's main proprietary fund and no alternative 
dedicated funding source has been identified. 

For county governments, election reform efforts have imposed significant additional 
administrative costs. For example, continuing maintenance and support for the Automark 
voting system could result in counties incurring collective costs of up to $165,000 annually 
over the life-cycle of the technology. Although some of these costs should have been offset by 
savings in areas of responsibility assumed by the state (SVRS), there are other areas where 
assessment of the division of responsibilities and resource needs has been insufficient or 
non-existent. An example of this would be the late registration, which was introduced with 
no apparent consideration of the likely financial impacts on county election administrators. 
Where significant changes in elections procedures are made without proper consideration 
of both initial outlays and long-term cost implications, there can be no assurance the intent 
of legislation will be effectively implemented. 

Secretary of State's Office Should Begin Exploring Funding Options 

The original Montana HAVA state plan was released in 2003 and outlined the state's 
proposed methods of implementing the act and allocating funding for various activities. 
The plan was amended in 2005 to include budget revisions, but the majority of HAVA- 
related changes had not been completed at this point. We believe the completion of the 
first full election cycle with all HAVA-requirements in place provides a good opportunity 
for the SOS office to revisit budgetary priorities and address the broader issue of funding 
elections reform. The SOS office has taken some steps to address the funding needs of 
counties through appropriation of HAVA interest earnings for this purpose, but at this 
point there does not appear to be a clear plan for distribution of this funding in different 
areas. 

Montana statute assigns responsibility for funding elections administration almost solely 
to county governments. Statutory designation of responsibility for elections administration 
and costs reflects previous practices, where a very limited role was reserved for the 
Secretary of State's office. Introduction of HAVA has rebalanced election administration 
responsibilities assigned to state and county governments, but the need for corresponding 
changes in statutory responsibility have not been addressed. 

Electoral processes are constantly adapting as society and technology change. As the 
state's chief election officer, the Secretary of State has a responsibility to ensure this 



69 



process of change is well-managed. The SOS office should, therefore, begin addressing the 
need for a thorough review of funding requirements for elections activities following the 
depletion of HAVA funds. This review should also encompass an assessment of the fiscal 
responsibilities being placed on counties by future changes in election laws, and the long- 
term viability of current funding sources for elections administration. 



Recommendation #14 

We recommend the Secretary of State's office take steps to address the 

future funding of elections by: 

A. Updating the state HAVA plan to include any necessary changes in the 
allocation and distribution of remaining HAVA funding; AND 

B. Identifying whether counties can meet the ongoing implementation costs of 
elections reform efforts following depletion of HAVA grant funding; AND 

C. Where necessary, seeking legislative changes to accurately reflect division 
of responsibility for elections funding and provide a viable basis for long 
term implementation of HAVA and other electionsreforms^ 



07P-02 



70 



71 

APPENDIX A - AUDIT APPROACH 



Audit Scope 



Audit scope was developed to address provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) 
being implemented by state and local governments. Responsibility for implementation 
of some HAVA provisions rest with federal agencies and were not included within the 
scope of our audit. Audit scope was also expanded to address recent changes in Montana 
elections laws, which are being implemented independently of HAVA provisions. This 
scope expansion included changes in registration procedures extending the period during 
which voters are able to register to vote prior to Election Day (known as late registration), 
and changes in absentee voting procedures made over the past three election cycles. 

Developing audit scope to specifically address HAVA provisions and selected additional 
changes in elections law effectively excluded many activities conducted by state and county 
election officials before, during and after elections. Audit scope excluded county activities 
relating to the identification, organization and staffing of polling places; compilation, 
printing, distribution and collection of ballots and other elections supplies and equipment; 
and vote counting and tabulation of election results. At the state level, activities within the 
Secretary of State's (SOS) office excluded from scope related to procedures for qualifying 
candidates and ballot initiatives; and the office's role in conducting a statewide canvas and 
certifying election results. 



Audit Methodolog ies 



Audit methodologies were developed to address the objectives noted in Chapter I of this 
report. The following sections summarize audit methodologies conducted in various 
areas. 

Statutory References 

Federal and state statutes, regulations and rules relevant to implementation of HAVA were 
reviewed to identify applicable guidance and compliance standards for administration of 
elections in Montana. Federal statutes included those codified under the Help America 
Vote Act of 2002, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (with subsequent amendments), and the 
Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984. Montana elections laws 
were also reviewed along with bills introduced during the past three legislative sessions 
relating to implementation of HAVA and other recent election reform efforts. Montana 
administrative rules relating to elections administration were also obtained and reviewed. 

Agency Interviews and Observations 

We conducted interviews with members of staff within the SOS office responsible for 
elections administration. We also interviewed staff members responsible for maintenance 
of the statewide voter registration system (SVRS) and other information technology 
applications necessary for support of elections activities. Interviews with agency personnel 
were conducted both before and after the November 2006 general elections. Audit staff 
also conducted observations of activities within the SOS office. These observations 



07P-02 



Montana Legislative Audit Division 



included SOS office training and informational events relevant to elections administration. 
Audit staff were also present within the SOS office during the November 2006 elections 
to observe the activities of staff and interaction between state and county election officials 
and the general public. 

Review of Agency Documents and Records 

Documents and records within the SOS office relating to the planning and implementation 
of HAVA in Montana were reviewed. Reviewed documents included those relating to the 
development of the Montana HAVA State Plan, subsequent amendments to the plan, and 
ongoing communications with county election officials and others regarding implementation 
of specific HAVA provisions. We also reviewed financial and budget information for the 
federal HAVA grant, including SABHRS revenue and expenditure reports and internal 
budgetary records maintained by the SOS office. A wide variety of other documents and 
records relating to other aspects of elections administration were also reviewed, these 
included contracts and agreements with contractors and vendors, complaints information, 
SVRS technical documentation, training guides, and other information distributed by the 
SOS office to county elections officials and the general public. 

Statewide Voter Registration System 

Testing and analysis of the statewide voter registration system (SVRS) involved review 
of SOS office and county operation and maintenance of the system. We tested access 
and security procedures in place at state and county levels to ensure appropriate levels of 
access were assigned and the system secured from unauthorized access. Audit staff visited 
three different counties to test security settings for desktop computers and networks used 
to access SVRS. We reviewed incident reports and other documents relating to outages 
experienced by SVRS staff in the period prior to the November 2006 elections. We also 
interviewed staff within the SOS office and within the Information Technology Services 
Division of the Department of Administration with responsibility for system operations 
and with knowledge of circumstances relating to these outages. Testing the integrity of 
the data within SVRS involved accessing the system database using a computer-assisted 
auditing tool to extract and analyze records for registered voters. SVRS data was queried 
to determine whether state and federal statutory compliance standards were being met 
relative to the eligibility of registered voter records. Specific compliance standards included 
voter age, deceased status of voters, felony conviction status of voters, and duplication of 
voter records. 

Automark Voting System Testing 

We conducted limited testing of the new Automark voting system to assess functionality 
and security performance. We also obtained and reviewed documents relating to the 
Automark system, including the purchase order and contract between the SOS office and 
the system vendor, technical manuals and user guides, and general background information 
relating to security testing procedures for assisted voting technologies. Audit staff obtained 
a demonstration model Automark from the SOS office and performed testing to assess 
functionality and system security. Security testing involved evaluation of the system's 
physical security properties and accessing the flash memory device used to store ballot and 
other operational data for the system. 



73 



Election Day Observations 

Audit staff conducted observations of polling place procedures during the November 2006 
General Elections. Observations were conducted in 30 counties and 86 different polling 
places. Audit observations involved documentation of the physical condition of polling 
places, availability of certain voting equipment, and processing procedures for members 
of the public wishing to cast a ballot (including identification and registration verification, 
and ballot issuance). Observations were conducted throughout the course of regular voting 
hours and we observed a total of 1,323 individual voters. Observation data documented 
for these voters was used as a statistical sample of statewide voting behavior and was used 
to project attribute values for the statewide population of voters visiting polling places 
on Election Day. Observations in polling places also included brief interviews with chief 
election judges regarding changes in elections procedures resulting from HAVA. Audit 
staff were also present within the SOS office on Election Day to observe procedures. 

County Election Officials Survey, Interviews and Observations 

We solicited input from county election officials at various stages throughout audit work. 
The primary means of obtaining county input was through an online survey distributed to 
all county election officials. This survey contained questions addressing implementation 
of HAVA provisions and other changes in elections procedures. 46 county election officials 
participated in the survey for a response rate of 86 percent. Survey responses included 
demographic data, which allowed for stratified analysis of responses based on county size 
and other characteristics. We also conducted interviews with individual county election 
officials relating to both general and specific issues addressed under our audit objectives. 
Audit staff also attended two meetings of the Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders 
to discuss progress with audit work and solicit input on various elections issues. 

Review of Elections Returns and other Data 

Several audit objectives included methodologies involving obtaining and analyzing election 
results/returns and other voting data for the November 2006 General Election and previous 
election cycles. Election results and other voting data were generally obtained directly from 
the SOS office official canvas of election returns or from the federal Election Assistance 
Commission. The types of data used in these analyses included voter registration status, 
voter turnout, the numbers of votes cast and counted in specific electoral races, and the 
proportions of voters using different voting methods (absentee and provisional voting). 
Voting data was used in our analysis of voting systems to calculate residual vote levels 
in counties. Residual votes were calculated based on comparisons between voter turnout 
and the actual number of votes cast for candidates for federal and statewide office in every 
election between 1992 and 2006. We also used voting data in our analysis of trends in 
absentee and provisional voting, and in analysis of the effects of the introduction of late 
registration for the 2006 elections. 

Information from Federal Agencies, Other States, and Other Sources 

As part of both audit planning and fieldwork stages, we reviewed various reports, studies 
and informational sources from federal agencies, other states, and other organizations or 
groups involved in election reform issues. These information sources were used to help 



07P-02 



74 



Montana Legislative Audit Division 



develop audit scope and objectives, to identify specific methodologies used during the 
course of audit work, and to provide background information or data relevant to different 
elections issues. These sources included the federal Elections Assistance Commission, the 
National Commission on Federal Election Reform, the Government Accountability Office, 
the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Secretaries of 
State, and the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks. We 
also reviewed information and reports from a range of different elections and voting rights 
issue groups and other interested parties, election equipment and voting systems vendors, 
academic studies of elections and voter behavior, and newspaper and other local media 
reports on election reform efforts and the effects of these changes on voting in Montana. 



The Office of the 
Secretary of State 



Office Response 



B-3 

RECEIVED 

Office of the Secretary of State 

AUG 1 2007 

State of Montana 

LEGISLATIVE AUDIT DIV. 



State Capitoe building 
Brad Johnson I'O Box 202801 

Secretary of State ijM Hf.i.ena, MT 59620-2801 




August 10,2007 



Mr. Scott Seacat 
Legislative Auditor 
Legislative Audit Division 
P.O. Box 201705 
Helena, MT 59620-1705 

Dear Mr. Seacat: 

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the performance audit of Montana's 
compliance with the Help America Vote Act and election-related issues. The audit pointed out a 
number of successes that highlight Montana's tradition of excellent elections. 

The audit also includes fourteen recommendations for areas where the Secretary of 
State's office can work with county governments to even further improve our elections. Our 
response to each of those is below. 

Recommendation #1: Work with counties to develop a statewide data integrity improvement 
plan addressing the updating and maintenance of voter information and uniform 
implementation throughout the state. 

Concur. This office will issue guidance to county election officials reminding them to 
use SVRS as a primary - but not exclusive - means of identifying deceased voters, incarcerated 
felons, and duplicate voter records. We will develop a plan for dealing with the problem of 
unique identifiers and legacy registrations. And we will develop guidelines on ineligible voter 
checks and updating voter information. 

Recommendation #2: Improve office controls over SVRS access by: A. Developing procedures 
to comprehensively review access to the SVRS to ensure authorized individuals have access 
appropriate to their job duties. B. Working with counties to develop policies and procedures to 
ensure system users can be uniquely identified. 

Concur. This office has made staff changes and altered staff responsibilities to provide 
for better SVRS oversight. We will review all SVRS accounts for appropriateness of access level. 
We will issue guidance to counties on individual user accountability for SVRS desktops. 

Recommendation #3: Assist counties in implementing effective desktop security procedures by: 
A. Developing SVRS desktop security procedures at the county level. B. Providing counties with 



Telephone: (406) 4-14-203 [ • Fax: (406)444-3976 * http://www.sos.mt.gov 



B-4 



Mr. Scott Seacat 

Page 2 

August 10,2007 



desktop security advice and guidance through the SVRS help desk. C. Implementing an audit 
process to identify security weaknesses at the county level. 

Concur. While we have no jurisdiction at this time to enforce on county property, we 
will issue an election directive on SVRS desktop security procedures consistent with the Interim 
Security Policy and Interim Security Architecture issued by the state Chief Information Officer. 
The help desk has already begun providing advice and guidance on the subject. And we will 
use the pre-existing help desk audit function in a way that leads to identification of any further 
county-level security weaknesses. 

Recommendation #4: Revise the current service level agreement with the Information 
Technology Services Division to include specific assignment of responsibilities and procedures 
relating to the SVRS change control process and implementation of the backup system. 

Concur. This office sent a draft revision to the service level agreement to ITSD on 
August 1 0, and we are awaiting a response. 

Recommendation #5: Continue to review and revise training materials and other elections 
guidance to emphasize the availability of polling place elector ID forms and work with 
counties to ensure effective representation. 

Concur: We will continue to work with counties to emphasize the availability of the 
polling place elector ID form - an award-winning process developed in this office that 
complements and exceeds the requirements of HAVA. Facts about the polling place elector ID 
form will be included in the uniform display referenced in recommendation #6. 

Recommendation #6: Collaborate with counties to develop, produce and distribute a uniform 
voter information display for use in all Montana's polling places. 

Concur: We will continue to work with counties to produce another poster for 
distribution to counties containing all HAVA-mandated voter information - and some 
additional information, such as the availability of the polling place elector ID form. 

Recommendation #7: Lead efforts to mitigate the effects of late registration by: A. Focusing 
public education on registering prior to Election Day. B. Emphasizing late registration 
procedures and anti- fraud controls in training for county elections officials. 

Concur: This office already focuses intense public education efforts on voter registration 
before the late registration period. We will continue to work with counties to increase those 
efforts. We will continue to distribute education and training materials for county election 
officials and make those materials available in individual visits with the Secretary, regional 
training sessions, or one-on-one training sessions. 

Recommendation #8: Monitor ongoing trends in late registration to determine the impacts on 
elections administration and, if needed, mitigate future impacts by: A. Rolling-back the late 



B-5 



Mr. Scott Seacat 

Page 3 

August 10,2007 



registration period to some point prior to Election Day orB. Providing additional resources or 
guidance to maintain current levels of effort in counties or C. Expanding late registration to a 
precinct-based procedure. 

Concur: This office has already investigated some of these options, and will study which 
of them will be needed to mitigate future impacts. Although the relationship between late 
registration usage levels in other states and Montana's relatively low usage is tenuous, we will 
continue monitoring usage levels here and determining what other options may be needed to 
mitigate the impact. 

Recommendation #9: Continue efforts to transition Montana counties to a common standard 
for voting systems by: A. Prioritizing availability of remaining HA VA funds for upgrading 
county voting systems equipment. B. Establishing a common technological standard for voting 
systems as a strategic priority for the office. C. Determining the need for further legislative 
guidance relative to voting systems. 

Concur: This office will review priorities for remaining HAVA funds and amend the 
HAVA plan as needed to reflect the priority of upgrading voting systems. A common 
technological standard for voting systems using precinct counting machines is not possible so 
long as Montana maintains both polling place and absentee voting options. If necessary, we 
will seek legislation or other guidance from the legislature. 

Recommendation #10: Revise voting system testing procedures to ensure all the different types 
of elections equipment used in the state are included in the office's random testing procedures. 

Concur. Although our current random testing system meets the requirements of statute, 
there may be a benefit to be gained from exceeding them. We will develop a process to 
randomly test at least ten percent of different types of voting systems. 

Recommendation #11: Work with counties to address inconsistencies in the administration of 
absentee voting bv: A. Revising public education and training efforts to provide increased 
emphasis on the absentee voting process. B. Reviewing the county absentee voting 
communications to determine where required voter information could be standardized further. 
C. Where necessary, seeking statutory revisions to clarify treatment of absentee ballots received 
in different circumstances. 

Concur. We will request that counties supply information about their communications 
with absentee voters so that we can find areas where further standardization is possible. We 
will use that information to prepare such revisions as are necessary to our public education 
efforts and our training efforts concerning absentee voting. We will study the necessity for 
legislative clarification on the subject of where absentee ballots can be returned. If necessary, 
we will work with counties to seek that legislation. 

Recommendation #12: Continue addressing polling place accessibility issues by: A. Working to 
identify unmet needs and prioritize allocation of remaining funding based on these needs. B. 



B-6 



Mr. Scott Seacat 

Page 4 

August 10,2007 



Establishing long-term goals for reducing the number of remaining inaccessible polling places 
through upgrade or replacement. 

Concur. We will continue to work with counties to set a goal of reducing even further 
the number of inaccessible polling places. We will ask counties to provide information 
regarding possible improvements to accessibility in polling places, and we will continue to 
work with counties to prioritize funding based on that information. 

Recommendation #13: Update the Election Judges handbook to include specific written 
instructions on installation of Automark voting systems during polling. 

Concur. In addition to the Automark training and materials already provided, we will 
include specific Automark instructions in the Election Judge's Handbook. 

Recommendation #14: Take steps to address the future funding of elections by: A. Updating the 
state HA VA plan to include any necessary changes in the allocation and distribution of 
remaining HA VA funding. B. Identifying whether counties can meet the ongoing 
implementation costs of elections reform efforts following depletion of HA VA grant funding. C. 
Where necessary, seeking legislative changes to accurately reflect division of responsibility for 
elections funding and provide a viable basis for long-term implementation of HA VA and other 
elections reforms. 

Concur. We will ask counties to provide information on their ability to meet ongoing 
implementation costs of HAVA. As we have previously, we will continue to work with counties 
to amend the HAVA plan as needed to reflect necessary changes in allocation of remaining 
funding. Based on our analysis of the information provided by counties, we will continue to 
work with counties to determine whether it is necessary for this office to seek legislation on the 
subject of elections funding. 

I would like to thank the staff of the legislative audit division for their professionalism and 
cooperation during this audit. 




BRAD JOHNSON 
Secretary of State 



BJ:sba