Montana Secretary of State SOS
Credit: Eliza Wiley / MTFP

Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen announced Tuesday that representatives from three state offices have completed their canvass of the 2022 election and declared each candidate who received the most votes on Nov. 8 officially elected.

“Thank you to the canvass board for completing this important procedure outlined in Montana election law,” Jacobsen said in her announcement. “The state canvass is an essential step in the process of certifying Montana’s General Election results.”

The decision by the Board of State Canvassers, which is composed of representatives from the offices of Attorney General Austin Knudsen, Superintendent Elsie Arntzen and State Auditor Troy Downing, marks the final step in the 2022 electoral process.

In the weeks between Nov. 8 and Tuesday’s announcement, state and local election officials engaged in a series of post-election procedures designed to ensure the accuracy of this year’s results. Those steps included a random selection by the Board of State Canvassers of which precincts would be audited in 44 counties, followed by hand-count audits of those precincts to confirm that electronic tabulating machines functioned properly. Ten counties that don’t use tabulating machines were exempt from the audit, as were two counties — Cascade and Sanders — that faced possible recounts in individual races. County officials also conducted their own local canvasses prior to the Thanksgiving holiday and reported their results to Jacobsen’s office.

This week also generated another nugget of post-Election Day news: the results of a recount in the Cascade County Clerk and Recorder race. After a Nov. 14 count of provisional ballots, Democratic incumbent Rina Moore trailed Republican challenger Sandra Merchant by 30 votes. Merchant’s victory was confirmed Monday in a recount that put her 36 votes ahead.

The other potential recount in Montana involved a ballot measure in Sanders County proposing a 3% local tax on medical marijuana sales, which reported an election night differential of only two votes. That later expanded to 13 votes in the secretary of state’s unofficial results, with 3,250 voters opposing the measure and 3,237 supporting it. According to Sanders County Election Administrator McKenna Wallace, citizens had five days after the county’s Nov. 22 canvass to file a petition signed by at least 10 electors, but no such petition was received. As such, no recount took place, and the ballot measure failed.

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Alex Sakariassen is a 2008 graduate of the University of Montana's School of Journalism, where he worked for four years at the Montana Kaimin student newspaper and cut his journalistic teeth as a paid news intern for the Choteau Acantha for two summers. After obtaining his bachelor's degree in journalism and history, Sakariassen spent nearly 10 years covering environmental issues and state and federal politics for the alternative newsweekly Missoula Independent. He transitioned into freelance journalism following the Indy's abrupt shuttering in September 2018, writing in-depth features, breaking...