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The latest Montana politics, elections and Legislature news.

Absentee Voting Runs High As Election Day Begins

The entrance to a polling place at the Missoula County fairgrounds, Nov. 7, 2016.
Andrew French
/
The entrance to a polling place at the Missoula County fairgrounds, Nov. 7, 2016.

Montanans – those who haven’t already voted – are heading to the polls today to decide hard-fought races ranging from president to local ballot measures. 

As of this morning, Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch's official website reported that nearly 298,000 Montanans had cast absentee ballots. That's about 85 percent of all the absentee ballots sent out statewide.

"I think everyone can agree this has been a very exciting election cycle," McCulloch said. “But in terms of turnout, I will not be satisfied until 100 percent of all eligible Montanans vote."

Some 685,636 Montanans had registered to vote as of this morning, though not all of them will cast ballots. That figure will likely rise because Montanans can register on Election Day.

McCulloch said she expects voter turnout to be similar to other presidential years, hovering around 70 percent. That’s a number many states can only envy. Even in the 2000 presidential election, when Montana’s turnout dipped to nearly 60 percent, the state’s turnout still ranked eighth nationally.

Polling places are expecting high numbers Tuesday as both voters gather to cast ballots in person or deliver absentee ballots by hand. Bobbi Christenson, Sanders County’s elections clerk, said polling places would accept absentee ballots on Election Day to give voters the maximum time to make their decisions.

"A lot of people want to wait until closer to the election because they haven’t decided who they’re voting for yet,” Christenson said earlier this week. “So they call and drop (absentee ballots) at the polls so they don’t have to rely on the mail to get them there in time."

County election officials may count those absentee ballots during Election Day, but results won’t be announced until after in-person voting is completed.

Besides casting votes for president, Montanans today will be filling a U.S. House seat and selecting a governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor and superintendent of public instruction. Statewide, ballots also include races for the state Supreme Court and Public Service Commission, district court judges, and candidates for 125 seats in the state Legislature.

Voters will also be considering four statewide ballot issues that would ban trapping on public lands, finance Montana research on brain diseases and disorders, enshrine rights for crime victims in the Montana Constitution, and expand the number of patients medical marijuana providers can serve.

The Secretary of State’s website includes resources for voters who still need to register or find out where they can vote in their county. Live election results will be published tonight after 8:00 p.m.

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