Voter voices from Montana’s 2022 primaries
Our reporters have been talking to voters across the state today as ballots are cast in the primary election.
Hamilton, MT - Edward O'Brien, Montana Public Radio
A steady stream of Bitterroot Valley voters cast their ballots at the Hamilton High School polling station Tuesday morning.
Jane and Art Shigley were among those voters, and Jane says she hasn’t missed an opportunity to vote in almost five decades.
“It's just one of the things I've always done. I think it's one of the amazing things we're allowed to do in this country.”
Shigley says LGBTQ rights are one of many issues on her mind these days.
“That's mainly because we had an issue at our farmers market last week with someone who was very concerned about the rainbow and thought it was political, and was very intimidating to some of the people at our farmers market. So that's been on my mind today.”
Miriam and Phil Bergholm also brought several concerns with them into the polling booth Tuesday morning.
“Gas prices right at the moment,” Miriam Bergholm says.
“I don’t like big government. I don’t like all the money being thrown out to different countries. I want to keep our tax dollars here. I don’t mind people coming into the country, but they need to do it legally,” Phil Bergholm says.
Bergholm says he proudly votes a straight Republican ticket.
“I joined the Navy and went to war to fight communism, and I think Democrats are communists. So I won’t vote for any Democrat, ever.”
Hamilton’s Tori Scholl says she went to the polls Tuesday because she values the right to vote. As she puts it, she was “practicing her liberty.”
Scholl says the state’s infrastructure and economy are very important issues to her. She says laws should also respect human life.
“From the cradle to the grave, I think our laws need to reflect love for one another and how we treat one another.”
Missoula, MT - Kathleen Shannon, Montana Public Radio
Missoula voters discussed new voting laws, along with political issues like gun control and bodily autonomy that affected their voting decisions.
Julie Stephenson of Missoula says the new voting laws did not negatively impact her ability to cast a ballot.
“No, they didn’t. I did have to check to make sure I was registered a few different times because I did change my address but I stayed within my same precinct. Just not trusting everything, I did want to confirm, and it was a very easy process.”
Missoula teacher and resident Johannah Kohorst discussed gun control and bodily autonomy as interconnected issues that affected her vote.
“I think gun control is a huge thing. I’m a teacher so I’m deathly afraid of where the gun control is going right now. I also think bodily autonomy, I think are the two main ones right now that play into one another simply because the abortion thing is coming through. You have to have a kid, and then the kid has to go to school, and then that’s where the guns come into play.”
Missoula resident Bruce Russell Sr. has been a poll worker for around a decade, and made sure he was up to date with new voting laws.
“The guy who does the training is just superb. I also have a book and I have been checking it. It’s the first time I’ve brought one because there’s so many changes, and I need to check and make sure I’m doing it the way the book says.”
Whitfish, MT - Aaron Bolton, Montana Public Radio
Voters across the Flathead Valley largely talked about being overwhelmed by recent events like the war in Ukraine, mass shootings and inflation.
Kalispell resident Barbara Austin describes herself as a staunch conservative and voted that way in all primary races. She says protecting schools is important to her.
“Maybe a counselor or somebody. Teachers could be armed, maybe an armed person on the premises. To me, that’s very important.”
Guns were also on the mind of North Valley resident Russell Conn, who says he wants candidates that can find middle ground.
“I myself have always had guns and whatnot, but I think we’ve gone so far the other way that we need to find some common ground on that, and we need to approach all of the angles and not just say that one approach is going to solve the problem.”
Ramona Vincent, who describes herself as an independent from Kalispell, says the top issue for her is the influx of new residents and dwindling infrastructure.
“It’s not necessarily the people coming in, but because Montana is a smaller population, a lot of the time we don’t have the money to take care of what we have.”
Mary Siers from Whitefish describes herself as a Democrat and says with so much going on in the world, she thinks it’s important to vote.
“With everything going on, it makes you feel like you kind of want to be a part of it. You want some change. You have to do what you can and this is our only power.”
Carol Lee from the Jewel Basin area says she and her husband are overwhelmed by what feels like nonstop election cycles.
“It’s nonstop, 24/7, every day, it’s politics. We’re from the generation where you’d vote and then you wouldn’t hear about it for another three years.”
Billings, MT - Jess Sheldahl, Yellowstone Public Radio
Billings resident Barbara Williams found the voting process for Tuesday’s primary simple and cast her ballot to support Republican candidates.
“Because I want to try to vote the Democrats out,” Williams says. “And I’m getting my husband’s vote, and my vote, and my kid’s vote. Anybody [that] can vote is going to vote Republican
Those who registered to vote before noon on Monday have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their ballots to their local polling place.
Another new voting law requires people to have photo identification when casting a ballot. A few people ran back to their cars to get IDs on Tuesday morning, but election official Lloyd Swords says getting rid of same-day registration has made collecting ballots easier.
“Just from a logistics standpoint, you know, there are so many days in between elections and it’s so easy to get registered to vote. It made it so difficult for that same-day registration.”
Swords said, as of this morning, so far, he hadn’t seen anyone get turned away due to new election laws.
A steady stream of people flowed through the doors of the Montana Pavilion in MetraPark to drop off ballots a few hours after polls opened for Montana's primary election.
Kevin Gillen is a Yellowstone County election official.
"A considerable amount of people have already absentee voted, so this is nice. It's been a little bit more steady than I thought, tell you the truth."
Beside voting for primary candidates to run in the November general election for local, state and federal office, voters in Yellowstone County are deciding whether to continue recreational marijuana operations.
Scott Lund says the recreational marijuana questions drew him to the polls, where he navigated the state's new election laws.
"It went well, it went smooth. I had a little trouble, a little change of address, and it took 'em a few minutes to get it straightened out. Just had to wait a little bit, and it got taken care of. I got to vote."