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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

25,000 Montana voters chose 'no preference' in the presidential primaries

Montana followed a national trend this primary election with a growing number of voters who chose “no preference” in the presidential primaries.

According to unofficial results from the Montana Secretary of State, around 16,000 voters chose “no preference” over former President Donald Trump, and nearly 9,000 chose “no preference” over President Joe Biden. That equates to about 9% of the vote totals in both primaries.

That’s an increase over the 2020 and 2016 elections for both parties. Hundreds of thousands of voters in other states also voted against top candidates in their primaries this year.

Montana State University political scientist Eric Raile says poll after poll has shown that voters across the U.S. are unhappy with their choices for president this year. He says choosing “no preference” is a low-risk way to show it.

“What isn’t clear is how that will translate to a general election as it will matter more there.”

Raile says “no preference” voting is far more common in primaries than the general election, but that Democrats have been more likely to hold out in November than Republicans.

“In the past, Republicans have sort of fallen in line and will vote for a Republican, they won’t use a protest vote in a general election. I think there’s definitely a chance that Democrats will do so.”

The group Montanans for Palestine actively urged voters to choose “no preference” over Biden in the primary, and to write-in “ceasefire” instead of voting for Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. The group aims to show elected leaders their anger over U.S. support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

While Biden lost 9% of Democratic voters to “no preference” votes, Tester lost about 3% of votes to a primary challenger, although write-ins do not appear in the Secretary of State’s results.

Raile says it's unclear where those votes will fall in November.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or shaylee.ragar@mso.umt.edu.  
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