HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s midterm elections saw a record number of absentee ballots overwhelm voting machines.
They also found election officials in a dozen counties hand-counting votes.
But money for equipment is scarce and state law restricts when absentee ballots can be counted.
Some help is coming from the U.S. government.
$380 million in grants will come to states to improve their election systems and security.
Montana’s share was $3 million.
The bulk of the money, $2 million, will go toward a new voter registration system.
Additionally, $150,000 will go toward information technology security and $100,000 will pay for the salary of Stapleton’s election supervisor, Stuart Fuller.
The rest, $750,000, will go to counties for voting equipment.
That amount isn’t likely to go very far.
The price of one voting machine for the disabled starts at $3,500.
It would cost at least $1.2 million to replace the aging, bulky machines now being used throughout Montana.
A record 370,000 people cast absentee ballots in Montana this year.
The effect wasn’t just felt in large counties like Missoula, but also among smaller counties in central and eastern Montana that still count their ballots by hand.