Montana Public Radio

Elections Chief Says To Wait And See About Montana Primaries

Mar 18, 2020

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton plans to wait for more information about the coronavirus outbreak before deciding whether to change to the state's June 2 primary elections

In a video posted on Twitter Tuesday, Stapleton said people have asked him whether the primaries should be canceled, postponed, or conducted by mail because of the effort underway to stem the spread of the virus.

He said he is taking a “deliberate pause” before giving any direction on how the election should be conducted.

Montanans voting in the primary will choose their party nominees for president, U.S. Senate, governor and a slew of down-ballot offices.

Credit Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Ten people have tested positive in Montana for the coronavirus, most recently two men in their 20s in Gallatin County. Another Montana resident who hasn't been in the state since November tested positive in Maryland.

State officials had tested 509 people as of Wednesday morning.

Montana education officials also asked the federal government to waive student testing requirements for the state amid coronavirus-related school closures.

Federal officials announced last week they would consider targeted testing waivers, but not statewide waivers, the Independent Record reported.

Montana students in third through eighth grades usually take Smarter Balanced tests for federal accountability purposes and high school juniors take the ACT, a college entrance exam that also fulfills federal requirements.

Montana schools are closed until at least March 27, and school districts are preparing for the possibility that classes will be canceled for the rest of the school year due to the pandemic.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for the elderly and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.