By AMY BETH HANSON, Associated Press
HELEN, Mont. (AP) – A Montana County Republican organization is paying for election officials to recount November 2020 election envelopes in a bid to allay voter concerns after a private group claimed its own count found nearly 4,600 more votes than the envelopes in the election held by mail due to the pandemic.
It’s the latest example of the fallout from unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud made by former President Donald Trump and his allies after his defeat. The allegations sparked the insurgency at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and have been used as reason to change election laws across the country.
The Missoula County Republican Central Committee is paying up to $5,000 for an affirmation envelope count, Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman said. Members of the central committee observe the count, which began on Monday and is expected to end on Tuesday.
The central committee said it called for the count because it heard citizens say they were not going to vote due to allegations of voter fraud.
The Montana Election Integrity Project said its January 2021 envelope count was nearly 4,600 of the nearly 72,500 votes cast in Missoula County — a number that was within the margin of victory in more than a dozen legislative races in the county.
County election officials told the organization it could challenge the election results in court and reminded them that the deadline to file a challenge was approaching, but they did not follow up, Seaman said. .
This week’s count will have no effect on the election results, but could help the central committee “put this to bed”, Seaman said.
Seaman defended the integrity of his office in tabulating the results of the 2020 general election.
Voicemails left seeking comment from the Republican Missoula County Central Committee and Republican Rep. Brad Tschida — a member of the Election Integrity Group — were not immediately returned on Tuesday. Quentin Rhoades, an attorney with the election integrity group, said he would comment once the count is complete.
Montana’s 2021 legislature — with a two-thirds Republican majority — passed laws to end Election Day voter registration, ban paid ballot collection and require students to provide additional credentials if they wish to use a student card to register and vote. District Judge Michael Moses heard arguments against those laws earlier this month.
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