Gallatin County Election Judge Jennifer Staubach coaches a voter on the process of dropping off her ballot. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Democracy in action

Record numbers of voters, mail-in ballots and a process

There was a steady stream of people turning-in their ballots and collecting their “I voted” stickers on Nov. 3 in Big Sky, according to election judges Sheila Krieg and Jennifer Staubach. In between visiting with voters they busied themselves by sanitizing pens, placing stickers on the ballot box for people to collect after voting and chatting about their history with the effort.

“I just love the process. It’s not one side or the other, it’s the whole process and the civic duty and the community,” said Krieg, who has been an election judge for two years.

Staubach stepped into the role a decade ago and mostly out of curiosity of what goes on behind the scenes of elections. She remembers being the youngest person in the election judge class in Bozeman.

“I didn’t have any expectations in the beginning because I didn’t know what to expect, really. But I was impressed with the process,” she said. “I hope other states do it as well as Montana.”

The theme of checks and balances prevalent in the United States government also exists at the polls. They are often asked how people can be confident their ballots are safe.

There is a process they said: locks, witnesses, signatures and seals.

On election day, the ladies were given the names of people who would be responsible for transporting the ballots to Bozeman. Those people arrived at 8 pick up the ballot box containing what the judges estimated was a couple of hundred ballots, which was then locked, sealed and initialed.

The process is in motion as election officials see a record number of ballots, with the Associated Press projecting nearly 173 million votes. James J Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian titled, “Don’t be fooled: the delays in the U.S. election result mean our system is working.” In the piece, he discusses how around 100 million Americans voted before election day and how counting early ballots is labor intensive. “What we need now is patience,” he wrote. Final election results were pending at press time.

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