Clerks and recorders gather at Hamilton convention

Montana has 56 Clerk and Recorders - one for each county. Each year they meet for training in a different host city in a different district, this year they were in Hamilton. On Thursday, the training sessions included Election Administrations and they begin their day with the Pledge of Allegiance.

MICHELLE MCCONNAHA - Ravalli Republic

Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch came to Hamilton on Thursday to meet with Montana’s 56 clerks and recorders at their yearly state convention and give the election division presentation.

“I talked about election information and absentee system information – an overview,” said McCulloch. “I told them about the Montana database system that had been approved for changes.”

The Montana Elections Technical Advisory Council is comprised of seven clerks and election administrators who suggest changes and approve them.

“It changes with respect to whatever laws were passed during the legislature and METAC changes,” said McCulloch. “The system is always getting better and more responsive to the users. We take everyone’s suggestions and incorporate them into the system. It is pertinent.”

McCulloch said the newest changes include voter counting machines in larger cities and ballot on demand machines.

“One of the things is we’ve offered all the counties that service an American Indian Reservation ballot on demand machine, and I’ve offered to pay for those machines so that they can actually issue ballots from a satellite office as well as from a county office,” she said. “We’re real happy about that – they have been real appreciative.”

Ravalli County Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg said all clerks and recorders and election administrators spent three days in meetings.

“It’s been very fun,” said Plettenberg. “We are a tight group so it is like a recharge or reboot – it’s actually three days of training.

“I am blessed to have a finance department with actual accountants, but a lot of counties don’t, so they are the HR director and they do the budget and the payroll – so our first day was covering the finance portion that a lot of clerks do. Yesterday was more on the recording documents which we all do. Today is all election training and that’s a large portion of the training that we do.

“There are some upgrades to our program – we have a statewide data burner data base the Secretary of State discussed that and got us geared up for the general election.”

“There are 56 counties and we’ve had a good turnout – with deputies we have about 85 clerks and deputies,” said Plettenberg. “It is three full days of training 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. every day, but we have fun too. It’s a nice time for everyone to get together. We have great vendors and an opportunity to learn about technology and share with round table discussions.”

They also received updates on the machine used by voters with disabilities and information on emergency planning.

Duane Winslow is the Emergency Manager for Yellowstone County and was an election administrator for 16 years, so he knows both and presented on emergency preparedness during elections.

“It’s one of those things that every one believes nothing bad will ever happen, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” said Winslow. “So, we’ll talk about plans election officials should start thinking about. It’s emergency preparedness to think and plan and then walk through it. Maybe bring evacuees to polling places or just discuss options for your area.

“Election administrators and clerks and recorders are all good people that work their tails off and make sure every vote is counted.”

Each year the Montana clerks and recorders meet for training in a different host city in a different district. It will be in Billings next year.

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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Staff Reporter

Reporter at The Ravalli Republic