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Poll finds confidence among Missoula voters in the election, balloting process

 Voters line up in Missoula to cast a vote in November. Participants of a survey overwhelmingly responded that they were confident in the integrity of November’s election. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The Missoula County Elections Office recently funded a survey to better understand registered voters’ perceptions and experiences during the extraordinary November 2020 election.

According to data from Big Sky Poll, 698 registered voters in Missoula County participated in the survey.

“There was a whole slate of questions and they revolved around voter confidence. So how confident did they feel about their ballot being counted, lack of fraud, voting by mail,” said Bradley Seaman, Missoula County election administrator.

At the heart of the study was the simple question: “Are you confident Missoula County is free of voter fraud?”

According to some of the preliminary reports, participants overwhelmingly responded that they were, in fact, confident in the integrity of November’s election.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that Missoula County is free of voter fraud. Furthermore, 79% answered they were confident in the vote-by-mail process set up by Missoula County.

“I wasn’t really surprised that more people were confident in that process specifically because of the fact that we have these great tools where people can check their ballot status online,” Seaman said.

“We have signature verification processes and do a lot of work to help voters know that they can drop their ballot at the drop location, put it in the mail, take it in person and then check to make sure that it’s been processed and received.”

The study was conducted by two researchers from the University of Montana’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, Sara Rinfret and Christina Barsky.

“This 2020 election study on Missoula County provides important baseline data for Montana elections during a pandemic, which is first-of-its kind for the state,” Rinfret said in a statement released by UM News.

The findings suggest that Missoula County residents are generally content with their November voting experience, trust the Elections Office did a fair job and have confidence in the accuracy of the election results.

“I just think that this is so important that we listen to, respond and react to the people whom are receiving our services. And this is kind of the first step in a series of work towards meeting voters where they’re at and trying to help improve services for everybody in the County,” Seaman said.

Big Sky Poll will present the full results of the study during the regularly scheduled Missoula County Elections Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, Jan.12 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.