Clerks Corner: Records management and election updates

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News from Clerk and Recorder Robin Benson

The key to good records management is the ability to locate and retrieve documents for the public and you cannot do that if you donít know what you have. Clerk and Recorder Office staff have been conducting inventory for the past four years ó a very large, inundating task when you consider we have records dating back to the late 1800s when we were Flathead County. We became Lincoln County in 1909.

Laserfiche software is now on public computers in the Clerk and Recorders Office, allowing for keyword searches to be conducted on commissioner minutes, contracts and agreements, road petitions and resolutions to name a few. Keyword searching enables documents to be found within seconds, rather than days or weeks spent searching for information that may not even exist. Road petitions as early as 1893 are now stored in new books as well as in the Laserfiche Software System for easy public access. Deeds from 2002 to the present are available at www.lincolncountymt.us/clerk-and-recorder/clerk-and-recorder-home.

For every plat map and survey recorded in the Clerk and Recorderís Office, a duplicate copy statutorily is to be stored at an off-site location. I must admit, I was horrified (I literally lost sleep) to find hundreds of these duplicate maps laying on the floor in the Annex basement. Although it took a lot of time, those maps are now stored in map cabinets that are labeled for ease of locating and retrieval if necessary.

The Clerk and Recorderís Staff is currently working to create a work-flow to have plat and survey maps electronically updated in the tract books (section maps) instead of being hand drawn. Itís a much clearer picture of the section (640 acres per section), showing all property boundaries and allows for improved accuracy when the public is researching properties you may have an interest in purchasing, and aids title companies and Realtors in their research. The section maps will show road names, and are color coded for city, state and forest service lands. Lincoln County has Townships 25 through 37 and each Township has 36 sections. Maintaining land records (maps and ownership records) is not only statutorily required, but is a priority in the Clerk and Recorderís Office to do efficiently. I am not sure how long it will take to complete all section maps, but it is a reachable goal.

News from Election Administrator Leigh Riggleman

The Election Department has hit the ground running in the last few weeks as the Nov. 6 General Election approaches quickly. In early October, a team of election judges put together a record number of absentee ballot packets and 5,683 were delivered to the Post Office on the morning of Oct. 12. Requests are still coming in and we work hard to get the ballots out to voters within a 24-hour time frame. If you would like to receive an absentee ballot in the mail, you can visit the Lincoln County website www.lincolncountymt.us to print an Absentee Ballot Request form. Please allow as much time as possible for the ballot to reach you through the mail. If youíve already been issued a ballot, it is important to vote and return it. If you arrive at your polling place with the expectation that you will be issued a second ballot, you will have to vote provisionally, and your ballot may not be counted until the Tuesday after the election.

If you are not registered to vote, there is still time to register and be issued a ballot. You will need to come to the courthouse, fill out a voter registration card and we will issue you a ballot at the same time. We are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Voting is suspended on Monday, Nov. 5 from noon until 5 p.m., but resumes on General Election Day, Nov. 6th, at 7 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. As a reminder: All offices in the Courthouse are closed for business on Election Day with the exception of the Election Office.

Recently unearthed in the Clerk and Recorderís vault were some wonderful early examples of election documents. There is a perfectly preserved 1911 Lincoln County ballot with five parties listed with candidates in every column: Democratic, Independent, Progressive, Republican and Socialist. Another ballot found had the for and against for the Amendment to the Constitution for the rights of suffrage and qualifications to hold office. We are planning on using them in a collage for display for the public.

This column is to inform, educate and engage the public. For more information, contact Clerk and Recorder Robin Benson (lcclerk@libby.org, 406-283-2301) or Election Administrator Leigh Riggleman (leigh@libby.org, 406-283-2302).

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