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  Comments (10) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Political Mailers Causing Headaches at Flathead Election Department
Montana Republican Party distributes anti-Tester material with top election official’s name on it
A recent political mailer paid for by the Montana Republican Party
The Flathead County Election Department has been fielding calls from confused and angry voters who have been incorrectly led to believe that the department is distributing partisan political material.

The county’s top election official says the “frustrating” situation is heaping additional work and stress on her department at an already busy time.

Causing the confusion are mailers, including two recently distributed by the Montana Republican Party, which contain information opposing Sen. Jon Tester and his vote for the federal stimulus plan.

The mailers have an attached absentee ballot application with Flathead County Election Administrator Paula Robinson’s name and office address.

The League of Conservation Voters, a left-leaning group, has also distributed mailers containing absentee ballot requests, though they do not directly target an individual candidate nor do they contain Robinson’s name.

The ballot applications are legitimate and the election department processes them, but Robinson is concerned about the mailers’ partisan political content and the sheer number arriving in mailboxes. Voters have been calling the election department to criticize officials for sending out campaign material, even though Robinson’s office has nothing to do with the mailers.

“They’re not generated through our office,” Robinson said. “What the heck are they doing attaching our name to politicking? And it’s bad politicking.”

Two separate mailers criticize Tester’s vote for President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, with one explicitly encouraging people to vote against Tester.

“Mail in your absentee ballot application today so you can vote in the comfort of your own home,” the mailers say, with an arrow pointing to the attached ballot application.

The mailers list the Montana Republican State Central Committee’s Helena address and also have a disclaimer announcing, “Paid for by the Montana Republican Party,” but Robinson says it’s written in “fine print” and many voters don’t see it.

Bowen Greenwood, executive director of the Montana Republican Party, said the mailers are “an extremely effective way to ensure more Montanans get to the polls.” He said the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders sent out a press release clarifying that it has nothing to do with the mailers.

Greenwood said the Tester stimulus mailers have been distributed across the state and he expects more to come, addressing issues other than the stimulus. He said the material is sent to likely Republican voters.

In 2010, more than 70 percent of voters who received these types of mailers ended up voting, either through absentee or at the polls, Greenwood said.

“The net result is more Montanans casting a ballot,” he said. “That’s a great thing.”

County officials say some voters get confused because they keep receiving the mailers and have submitted as many as three or four ballot requests to the election department, which only processes one application and discards the others.

“It’s quadrupling the amount of work we’re doing,” Robinson said. “It’s frustrating.”

Monica Eisenzimer, the county’s election supervisor, said special-interest groups have sent out absentee ballot requests in the past, but they haven’t carried such a sharp political tone nor have they usually contained Robinson’s name.

“There were always people sending these out encouraging people to vote,” Eisenzimer said. “What’s different this time is how negative they are.”

“We get a couple of people an hour calling and complaining,” she added. “They think it’s us sending out campaign material.”
On 10-04-12, hotfishmt commented....
My feeble pain in the neck is the “on line political adds” that show up on the web sites I visit such as KOMO in Seattle…for Rehberg….there an add shows up like it a Montana site. That means I click to see news in Seattle (kids…
Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown19h
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Molly Priddy
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Tristan Scott
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The Replacements just played with Billy Joe accompaniment! And played an encore! #Coachella2014
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