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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Mail-In Voting Expected To Minimize Lines In Montana

Montana's election administrators are asking lawmakers to allow them to open and begin counting absentee ballots earlier because the number of mailed-in ballots continues to increase.

Montana election officials say it’s unlikely the state’s June primary election will see the kinds of long lines Arizona voters experienced Tuesday in that state’s presidential primary.

Voter interest in this year’s presidential primary overwhelmed Arizona election officials. The Arizona Republic reported people waited for hours at some polling stations after county election officials reduced the number of sites to save money. The newspaper says at least one polling place ran out of ballots.

Montana elections officials say they are making sure that doesn’t happen in the state’s June primary.

"I’m not really worried about our polling places just because we generally don’t see a lot of walk-in voters for primary elections."

Bret Rutherford is election administrator for Montana’s most populous county, Yellowstone.

The county is one that consolidated its polling places, largely because it is now easier for registered voters to cast their ballots by mail. Most voters in the Billings city limits, if they vote in person, go to MetraPark.

"So there really shouldn’t be much waiting at all and if you’ve been seeing the national news, seeing those lines outside of buildings you’re probably not going to see that in Yellowstone County anywhere."

And that’s expected to be the case elsewhere across Montana says top state elections officials Linda McCulloch.

McCulloch says because of the high level of interest in this year’s presidential primary local election administrators were told be prepared.

"And to plan ahead. And we always advise them to have plenty of ballots on hand and to make sure they have plenty of staff, plenty of election judges."

In past years, people have had long waits to register to vote on election day.

That’s why Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund suggests residents check right now to see if they are registered to vote for this year’s election. The Republican adds at the same time people can request their absentee ballot.

"It’s a great way to vote by mail ballot. I would encourage everyone to sign up early. My 87-year-old mother uses the mail ballot and I helped her sign up and get that at home. But we will be prepared Jackie trust me. We will not have an issue where we run out of ballots or don’t allow people to vote."

Residents can go to the Secretary of State’s website to verify they are registered to vote and request an absentee ballot.

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