November 22, 2022
November 22, 2022
Commissioners Scott Miller, Scott Blain, and Bill Bullock; and Administrative Officer Angela Newell were present.
8:30 Pledge of Allegiance.
Chip and Lisa Bennett, Lars Painter, Jason Fasching, J.B. Farley, and Denise Rivette were in attendance for Public Comment period.
Farley asked questions to clarify what he can and cannot do at the Agri Organics composting site. Mandeville is ok with doing what is necessary to preserve product, but requested notice when he plans to be on site. Noted have customers who are waiting on saw dust. Concerned the letter prohibiting industrial and commercial activity and want to make sure they are not causing further violations. Asked if they can haul product to another yard? Blain did not anticipate issues.
Chip Bennett delivered and read a “Summary of Key Take Away with Regard to Election Discrepancies on Election Night” (attached). Lisa Bennett asked if the challenges were reviewed?
Painter cautioned Commissioners to evaluate if the election was fair before it is certified and provided a number of bible quotes.
Lisa Bennett expressed concerns that Chip was not allowed to sit in the reconciliation room and that there was not sufficient transparency.
Mary Moser joined the meeting. Asked why movies were being played on Election day; Blain noted movies are occasionally played on Fridays in the office. Moser believes the movies were distracting and were concerned that the cameras were turned off on the day of the election; Blain noted cameras were turned off when ballots became available to the public in October to protect voter privacy. Moser is concerned that Poll Watchers were not provided access to all areas in the office on election night. Bullock asked if they wanted video of people voting; Blain noted the camera system didn’t exist in the 2020 election. Chip Bennett also expressed concerns that there was no video footage.
Bullock noted the 2020 general election was done as a poll election at the Commissioners insistence (one of only about 10 counties in the state that had in person voting). Both Blain and Bullock noted they were not on the ballot in 2020 and served as election judges in that election in the interest of giving individuals the right to vote in person if that was their preference. Moser noted her canvas in Bridger and associated challenges and concerns that the voter rolls are not cleaned up and there can be fraudulent votes. Blain discussed his personal opinions on voting and noted they have some similar opinions on elections in general. 9:00 Election Administrator Crystal Roascio joined the meeting. Roascio noted the office does verify signatures for all absentee ballots and can reject a ballot on the basis of a mismatch signature. Discussion about absentee signature verification and process outlined in Montana Code Annotated to inactivate and cancel a voter. Blain noted the law states that a court order is required to deem a person mentally incapacitated of voting and noted the challenges included people who were flood victims. Blain noted the election process changes they are seeking need to be addressed with the Montana Legislature as they are a matter of law. Blain noted we do not have to like the law as it currently exists, but have to follow the rules in law; Blain stated he has no doubt that the Clerk and Recorder’s Office follows those laws.
9:10 Roascio presented the Canvases of the 2022 General Election to the Commissioners. Roascio noted the post-election audit matched the numbers from the tabulating machines exactly. Noted the audit took about 6 hours to count 4 races on 549 ballots; the results of the post-election audit are on the County’s website. Blain noted there have been questions that the census data indicates that there are inconsistencies in the number of registered voters and the voting age population according to the 2020 Census. Blain noted concerns with the population increases reflected in the Census and does not believe it is accurate. Discussion about Amish population voting.
Blain moved to accept the canvas for the 2022 General Election; Miller seconded; discussion about post-election audit judges and members of the public in attendance; Lisa Bennett noted those who were listed as mentally incompetent she discussed with the manager of the facility who stated that they were not capable of voting; Bennett stated she brought in the challenges for the Election Administrator to investigate. Discussion about absentee voting voter challenges; Roascio noted after close of regular registration MCA requires the challenger to provide proof and evidence prior to the close of regular registration the Election Administrator is required to perform a thorough investigation. Roascio noted she provided notices as a courtesy to the voters, but was not required to as all challenges were found to be insufficient. Discussion about appearances of dropping off the challenges within less than 5 days of the election. Bullock believes the County has gone out of its way to allow voters their right to vote and expressed that the continual insinuation that the elections are being influenced by the Commissioners is disingenuous; Moser noted she believes what they are doing is their right. Blain noted he is happy to work with the public to help address issues and concerns. Blain is concerned there are bad actors who do not want to work constructively and noted a lack of integrity with some of the challenges. Miller noted he remembers the day one of the voters that was challenged was born and that they have lived in the County their whole life. Blain stated the staff in the Clerk and Recorders office are good people and the idea that government is corrupt by default is disingenuous and he encouraged further investigation and conversation before conclusions are reached. Blain believes peoples good reputations are being used by people who don’t have one. Miller noted Commissioners want a free and open election; Chip Bennett requested the tabulation venue be moved to the Civic Center and do away with the machines. Roascio noted as the election administrator she has no interest in doing away with the machines; Chip requested the voting venue be relocated to another facility so that everyone has access to move freely about the election building. Concerned there were rooms poll watchers were not permitted in; Blain noted this is something that County and citizens can work together on. Discussion about change to centralized tabulating, and the cost of having tabulating machines at the precincts. It was noted that prior to 2020 the votes were counted at the precincts with tabulators the County purchased. Chip concerned that the programming on the machines can be manipulated. Discussion regarding records request for the Cast Vote Record; Roascio noted as the Cast Vote Record is a copy of the ballot it would require a Court Order to be disclosed per the County Attorney. Roascio noted no races were within the margin to warrant an automatic recount or to allow a candidate requested recount. Discussion about the change in the vote count the Tuesday after the election because provisional ballots had been counted and added to the election day totals. Motion carried.
Commissioners noted 1:00 work session will be to discuss legislation with Brad Barker.
Blain moved to approve Commissioners Proceedings for October 20 and 27; Miller seconded; motion carried.
9:40 Blain moved to reappoint members to various boards as follows:
Cemetery Dist #1 Rockvale, 3-year term, Malyn Oswald
Cemetery Dist #2 Bridger, 3-year term, JoAnn Peters
Cemetery Dist #3 Joliet, 3-year term, Daniel Kenyon
Cemetery Dist #4 Belfry, 3-year term, Randy Black
Cemetery Dist #5 Roscoe, 3-year term, Guy Dodge
Cemetery Dist #6 Roberts, 3-year term, Stephen Keebler
Cemetery Dist #7 Luther, 3-year term, Ron Yates
Clarks Fork Valley TV, Joliet District, 3-year term, Terry Ludtke
Edgar Sewer and Lighting Dist., 2-year term, Nev Harding
Edgar Sewer and Lighting Dist., 3-year term, Doug Tucker
Fair, At-Large (two positions), 3-year terms, Melissa Oswald and Shane Warehime
Fair, Joliet District #2, 3-year term, Mike Ruprick
Health Board, County At Large (two positions), 3-year terms Becky Frank and Stacie Warehime
Historic Preservation Commission, County At-Large (two positions), 2-year terms, Maryvette Labrie and Matthew Stump
Planning, Bridger District #1, 2-year term, Clint Peterson
Planning, Joliet District #2, 2-year term, Gordy Hill
Planning, County At-Large, 2-year term, Ryan Brajcich
Red Lodge/Roberts Ambulance, At-Large, 3-year term, Chris Benton
Tax Appeal, Red Lodge District #3, 3-year term Lance Million
Weed, At Large, 3-year term, Mark Richards
Miller seconded; motion carried.
10:00 Miller noted Chance and Grove Creek Roads are now bus routes and he would like to upgrade them to priority 1 roads. Miller discussed the areas he would like to alter; Chance increase from 2 to 1 to the terminus of the road; Grove Creek priority 2 to intersection with Meeteetse and increase priority to 1 from the highway to the driveway west of Rio Lane. Miller moved to make alterations as discussed; Blain seconded; motion carried.
Discussed Robinson Draw Road terminus; Miller believes there is documentation indicating the road goes all the way to the Forest Service boundary as a priority 3 road. The road would be priority 3 on default, but does not reflect on the Road maps / list.
10:30 Miller moved to accept employee time as submitted; Blain seconded; motion carried.
11:00 Petition to alter Lower Luther Road. Geospatial Information Systems Coordinator / Fire Warden Tom Kohley, Clerk and Recorder Macque Bohleen, and Lisa Bennett were present. Newell departed. 11:03 moved by Blain, seconded by Bullock to accept petition to alter Lower Luther Road; motion carried.
Kohley brought up addressing issues noting the 3 specific residences which would require a change. Bullock noted the stipulation that the entire process would be public. Bullock will reach out to church, school and fire hall to indicate address changes.
Blain moved and Miller seconded to appoint Bullock and Red Lodge Surveying as Road Viewers.
Addressing issues with abandonment and potential road name changes will be addressed in cooperation with landowners affected by the alteration.
12:58 Reconvened. Chip and Lisa Bennett and Election Administrator Crystal Roascio were in attendance.
Commissioners discussed the Public Health Crisis Intervention Team grant application.
1:04 Representative Brad Barker met with Commissioners to discuss his legislative priorities which include education with funding for trades and resources for schools. Barker and Commissioners discussed detention options and floodplain issues. Barker reviewed the legislative process and the time frame and constraints on legislators. Discussion continued on a number of topics including Sanitation restrictions and DEQ staffing, marijuana legalization and possible changes being considered by the legislature, family land transfer process, and the deregulation of trash collection. Roascio spoke with Barker about supporting making the election process safer, if that’s using programs like “ERIC” or other options like requiring the last four numbers of one’s social security number on their absentee ballot envelope. Roascio also discussed a possible bill protecting the Election Officials and Judges from harassment and physical harm.
Respectfully submitted: Angela Newell, Administrative Officer