On Friday, the students met at the Missoula County Courthouse to learn about the various public records kept here. Most of the records are open to inspection by the public, including journalists. We examined records of property ownership, which are in kept a massive database. We looked up Professor Swibold’s house, which was built is 1950.
We also looked at voting records. We could see who voted but not how they voted, which is a secret. Such information helps officials and the public ensure that elections are fair. We also examined ballots and learned of new trends in voting, such as voting by mail. All Americans over the age of 18 can vote in local or national elections, provided they have registered. Here’s a link to Montana voting statistics kept by the Montana’s Secretary of State in Helena.
Finally, we examined property tax records. Property taxes are the leading source of money for local governments like school districts, the city and the county. They also help fund state activities such as the Montana University System. The amount of taxes someone pays depends in part on the value of the property, which is constantly changing. The records are public to allow residents to examine the system regularly for accuracy and fairness. Property is revalued for tax purposes every three years.