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You’re the fraud, Stapleton

Photo from MT SoS web page

It’s time Secretary of State Corey Stapleton learned the difference between a ballot that has an irregular signature and voter fraud.

Most irregular signatures, according to county election administrators, are due to a husband and wife getting their ballots mixed up and signing the wrong one. Same thing happens with roommates. Or a spouse signs a ballot because the significant other forgot to before going out of town.

This hardly meets the definition of fraud in the Oxford Dictionary: “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain,” also defined as the “intentional perversion of truth… ” (an apt description of Stapleton’s proclamations).

He’s been preaching voter fraud since before May’s special election, costing Montana taxpayers around $750,000. The fraud charges have been debunked at every turn but he keeps hammering away.

Hundreds (if not thousands) of mail ballots in recent Montana elections have been cast and signed by someone other than the voter whose name is on the ballot.

That quote comes from Stapleton in a recent email to me. So what is it, Corey, hundreds or thousands? Any documentation? Transparency doesn’t seem to be the secretary’s strong suit. Check out this Helena IR story.

The email I received was a GIF file, making it hard to copy and reproduce (at least for me). I couldn’t find a link to it anywhere. The email was an official-looking Secretary of State document with a big picture of Corey and, of course, the Great Seal of the State of Montana.

He’s pleading for election reform because:

“We’ve never had voter fraud in Montana this century. I mean nobody. And ask yourself if we had no DUIs, if we had no shoplifting, if we had no sexual assaults, would we really say that we don’t have those things? Or would we say we don’t have voter fraud because we’ve never pursued it or we don’t understand? Three-hundred — I don’t know the exact number — but in the special election for example over 300 signatures were illegal statewide.”

It’s a bizarre quote and Stapleton likes to throw around terms like “fraud,” “illegal,” “not legal” and “mismatched” in the same email, although they are vastly different.

It’s all political and an attempt to restrict voter participation. That’s our current secretary of state.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • If found it curious that Stapleton sent out that email claiming voter fraud the day after the IR article in which he said that the press had misquoted him and that he had not claimed voter fraud.

  • Just ol Corey shopwing his true colors. As you reported in an earlier blog comment, the only fault of the MT newspapers was they failed to do accurate coverage of the down ballot races of last election. If that had happened ,we would not even had Stapelton, Arntzen , or Rosendale elected.

  • Having worked at the SOS office for eight years I’m totally aghast at what is happening there. In the past, the office worked with all counties to make sure voter records were meticulously maintained. Today you would be hard pressed to find a clerk and recorder who is not dismayed by the way the SOS has handled elections.

    I designed and monitored the voter fraud website. We never had more than half a dozen complaints, and never once something substantial. They were usually “I saw so-and-so standing too close to a polling place.”

    I, too, got the newsletter Pete refers to. That’s something else I used to construct. The two secretaries of state I worked for made, a Republican and a Democrat, always made sure the other parts of the office, Business Services, Notary Compliance, and the Administrative Rules, were part of the newsletter. These parts of the SOS office affect the daily lives of all Montanans in many different ways, but not one word about them in this alleged “newsletter”.

    One additional niggle…I always made sure that the newsletter was accessible to all in a text format, so that even those with low end connections were able to view it. And it was always shareable, in email or on the website.

    Because the SOS is an elected official, those who are elected tend to be elections wonks, but never before have I seen the focus be solely on one relatively small part of what the office does. It makes me wonder if Mr. Stapleton is neglecting business services, notaries, and the crucial rules which define government operations, to the detriment of Montana citizens.

    Since I still know many people who work in the office, I know the current management is sorely trying to the experienced workers there, those with the institutional knowledge that allows for continuity. The office is hemorrhaging workers who are desperate to find someplace to work where their talents are appreciated.

    • Secretary of State should not be a political office, filled by election. It should be a skills position, filled by nonpartisan professionals with the credentials and experience to administer the office’s functions competently and without bias. Set forth the necessary credentials in the Montana Constitution and statutes, then let the governor appoint the SecST with confirmation by the Montana Senate. That’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a lot better than electing partisan politicians to fill offices that require nonpartisan professionalism.

      Stapleton’s performance thus far is as tragic as it is unacceptable. He’s an intelligent man, a former Naval officer and graduate of Annapolis. A man whose math heavy education should be an asset in discharging the SecST’s database management duties. But instead of applying those skills and that intelligence to better serve the public, he’s succumbed to the chimera of widespread voter fraud — and when caught making an unsupportable assertion, he doubles down on his assertion instead of changing his mind to accommodate the facts. I’m reminded of J.K. Galbraiths quip: “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
      Economics, Peace and Laughter (1971). Stapleton’s so busy on the proof that he’s ignoring the facts.

  • Kathleen Ely how about you present an LTE for Montana Newspapers.
    You make two salient, critical points completely missed by newspaper journalists.
    Very glad you Posted here.

  • With regard to why Secretary Stapleton is focused on voter fraud, one answer may be that he is following the example of the Secretary of State of Kansas, Kris Kobach. After two terms as secretary, Kobach declared his candidacy for governor in June.

    With regard to why Secretary Stapleton is doing such a poor job of pushing voter fraud, one answer is that he is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, not the Yale Law School as Kobach is. Of course, Kobach is not doing a great job either, see .

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