District court judge sides with Missoula County in election data case

By: - November 20, 2023 1:39 pm

A roll of voting stickers (Photo via Pxhere.com | Public Domain).

The Missoula County Elections Office didn’t misuse its voter database during the 2020 or 2022 elections, contrary to allegations first levied by a couple of local Republicans.

That’s according to a Missoula district court judge, who sided with the county in a lawsuit alleging election fraud stemming from the 2020 election cycle.

False claims of election fraud spread after former President Donald Trump denied the election results from the 2020 election.

“Plaintiff has not produced evidence that Missoula County or its employees misused its limited access to this database or operated those controls in an abuse of voter databases in 2020 or 2022,” the judge said in his Oct. 17 summary judgment.

The Missoula County Election Integrity Project, a local election-conspiracy group, initially filed the lawsuit, but asked to be dismissed as a party to the lawsuit prior to answering discovery – meaning things like disclosing documents to the court.

Project members include Rep. Lyn Hellegaard, R-Missoula, and former legislator Brad Tschida.

The group claimed vote-count video supported its false theory of ballot-stuffing and a 6% margin of error, contrary to research conducted by the Missoula County Republican Central Committee that found a .09% margin of error in tracking ballots.

Plaintiff John Lott, who continued the allegations the local Republicans made, claimed Missoula County failed to preserve “snapshots” of the voter database, violating Montana’s records retention law and federal requirements.

But the county said the Secretary of State’s Office manages the voter database and the county follows the office’s guidance on retaining data.

Judge John Larson said the county had no access to the information Lott was seeking and had no way to provide the information, as it was controlled by the Secretary of State’s office and “any relief requested from the court is more appropriately directed to the Legislature.”

Lott is also known for research on guns, although his work has been discredited by officials at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research whose director, Daniel Webster, has publicly stated Lott makes things up.

The lawsuit was supported by Washington, D.C.-based think-tank, America First Policy Institute, founded by former Trump officials.

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.