The Help America Vote Act is providing Election Security Grants to all 56 counties in Montana, and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announced the awarding of those grants on Tuesday.

The grants provide new technology for voters with disabilities that choose to cast their ballots at the local polling place.

“The equipment that disabled people used for voting going back the last 15 years was authorized by the federal money that came from the Bush versus Gore recount, if you remember the hanging chads in Florida,” said Stapleton. “Those pieces of equipment were called Auto Marks and they didn’t work real well. The counties didn’t like them and for the most part the disabled voters didn’t like them either. We’re replacing all that now with this money, so the feds are paying 50 percent and we’re paying 50 percent and as of today, that money is available.”

Stapleton said each county will handle the grants individually.

“What we committed to in the legislature and each clerk in the counties was that each polling place will have at least one of these devices throughout the state of Montana,” he said. “They will supply half of the money when they have that money ready and at last count about 45 of the 56 counties had that money ready. We will supply the match and they will go out and procure these devices which we just certified last week.”

Stapleton said the goal is for every polling place in all, 56 counties will have the devices installed by Election Day 2020.

“It is our hope that all of these counties in all of these polling locations will have this for the 2020 elections,” he said. “Some hope to have them even for school and local elections in 2019,” he said.

The HAVA grant for Missoula County is $45,879.73 and the county will match that amount from the state.

The grants will help counties buy the new Express Vote voting system, which will be easier to manage for the election judges and a great benefit to voters with disabilities.

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