MTPR reporters spent today talking to voters across western Montana. Nora Saks stopped by the Belgrade Events Center this afternoon where high school had just let out. Voting booths were set up in front of a trophy case and voters who had just cast their ballots shared what issues were on their mind.
Nora Saks: What's your name?
Kevin Aiken: Kevin Aiken.
Nora Saks: So Kevin you are wearing an "I Voted" sticker. What made you want to come out and vote today?
Kevin Aiken: I just was excited to help turn the tide I guess in an election and maybe see if my vote could do anything. I think I don't really like where Montana is going. I feel like we're a traditionally Republican state and I wanted it to stay that way and I think we're kind of straying away from our roots. I wanted us to go back to what we used to be. I'm from Belgrade.
Nora Saks: And how old are you?
Kevin Aiken: I'm 18.
Nora Saks: So which of the races or the ballot issues would you say are the most important for you?
Kevin Aiken: I think the Matt Rosendale and the Jon Tester that was one and Initiative 185 was a very important one. I voted no on I-185 because nobody really needs a tax increase. I think I'm kind of tired of Tester and the way he voted in Washington and stuff. I know a lot of people really like him because he was from Montana and all that but I think he's changed a lot and Washington has truly changed the man.
Nora Saks: President Trump was here not very long ago at all. Do you have a sense that his visit is going to impact voter turnout in Belgrade?
Kevin Aiken: Very much actually I think. I personally went to the rally and getting to see the huge crowd of people that was there and even the, probably, thousands that didn't get into the venue was insane. It's really cool to see something like that and you don't think that there's that many people who actually think that and have like-minded opinions as you, but there's a lot.
Nicky Bradenburg: Hi, I'm Nicky Bradenburg. This is my daughter, Jessica. I think we were most interested in the senate race between Jon Tester and Matt Rosendale and that definitely is something we're going to be watching this evening to see how those results come in.
Nora Saks: What are you hoping will happen?
Nicky Bradenburg: I'm a big supporter of Jon Tester. I'm a teacher so he's such a champion for teachers so it's really important to me that he stays where he is. So we'll see I guess.
Nora Saks: Any other outcomes you're looking forward to tonight or worried about?
Nicky Bradenburg: Yeah I'd like to see Kathleen Williams get that too. I really admire her. I think she represents Montana a lot better than Greg Gianforte does. Yeah I'd just like to see her role as a woman in that office representing Montana and somebody who's been here for a long time.
Nora Saks: So you know across the country they're saying that this is a historic election in terms of how many women are running. Do you sense that gender wave is happening in this state too from who you talk to?
Nicky Bradenburg: I feel like Montana's actually been leading in the high percentage of public office being filled by women and you saw there were quite a few women on the ballot this time and with Denise Juneau leading for as long as she did, and women before her. I think that we were kind of ahead of the game as far as having women in politics. For me it's not about the fact that she's a woman. I mean I'm proud that she's a woman and that she's running but it's more about what she stands for and what she wants to do to support Montana.
Lindsay Benson: My name is Lindsay Benson.
Nora Saks: Lindsay, where are you from?
Lindsay Benson: I'm from Belgrade. I'm 20, almost 21.
Nora Saks: What was the voting experience like for you?
Lindsay Benson: It was great. It's such an easy process. I think it's super important for all young people to get out and vote because this is a blessing that I think in the great United States that we have an opportunity to get to have a voice in politics and in a lot of countries you don't have that. Yeah. So I definitely supported Rosendale and Gianforte for sure. I think that they definitely align with my beliefs and the things that are important to me and my values.
Nora Saks: I want to ask you a follow up question. You said they said you feel like they're aligned with your values. Are there any values specifically that you feel like Gianforte and Rosendale echo.
Lindsay Benson: Yeah. So I'm a Christian and I think being pro-life and a lot of those things is super important to me. And yes, some other issues too, but I think that's probably the biggest one with those two. I think it will be sweet just to see how all the elections turn out. I think we're all looking forward to having political ads over with as well so we shall see.
Voter voices from Belgrade gathered by MTPR's Nora Saks.
Find live results for Montana's races here starting once the polls close at 8 p.m. And tune in on your radio or online for NPR's special election coverage from Montana and around the country, starting at 6 p.m.