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Keep up with the latest Montana politics, elections and Legislature news. Get updates on your radio during Morning and Evening Edition, on the web or via podcast any time.

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As COVID-19 Fuels Uncertainty, Political Ads Hit Familiar Themes

Apr 3, 2020

Tonight on Campaign Beat: Montana leaders have different takes on the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. New campaign ads emphasize jobs and values. And political newcomers are likely the most challenged by the shortened campaign season.

Listen now on Campaign Beat, with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

Montana absentee ballot for the 2017 special congressional election.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's June 2 primary will be conducted by mail in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Same-day registration and voting will still be allowed while a new law could mean election results will be available earlier than usual, officials said.

Montanas are being asked to report Census data online or by phone even without receiving a specialized ID code to begin the process.
U.S. Census Bureau

Montanas are being asked to report Census data online or by phone even without receiving a specialized ID code to begin the process.

A press release from the Montana Dept of Commerce on Monday says the state’s response remains critical as Census field operations across the U.S. are being suspended due to COVID-19.

Tonight on Campaign Beat: Primary election ballots are set to be mailed in six weeks. Members of Congress arguably have less influence than governors during the growing pandemic. Montana Republicans fess up to their effort to get Greens on the ballot. And Montana's secretary of state thinks this is "the perfect time for a crisis."

Listen now on Campaign Beat, with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

iStock

As the COVID-19 pandemic tightens its grip, the services provided by Montana’s mental health and addiction clinics are getting even more complicated.

Those who survived the 2017 state budget cuts have hung on by their fingernails ever since. And it may get a lot more difficult.

When Montanans went to the state’s unemployment website to file a claim on March 20, 2020 they were greeted with this message: "Unemployment Registration is currently experiencing high user load and may be slow, unresponsive, or down."
Screen capture: montanaworks.gov March 20, 2020, 6:35 p.m.

More than 17,000 new claims for unemployment benefits have been filed in Montana since new regulations took effect last week that expand eligibility to workers impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

An average of 2,100 people a day in the state filed for unemployment from March 17 through March 24.

Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-HD 87.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Montana state lawmakers say the state government is flush with reserve cash as the COVID-19 pandemic creates economic uncertainty around the world. Analysts with the Montana Legislative Fiscal Division report the state’s level of cash reserves, currently sitting at $464 million, is relatively high compared to most years in the past.

Campaign Beat: The Pandemic, The Primary And Third Parties

Mar 20, 2020

Campaign fundraising is tricky during a pandemic. The June primary could be mail-in only. State auditor and congressional candidate Matt Rosendale urges Montanans to get coronavirus testing that may not be available. A well-known Republican enters the Senate race — as a Libertarian. And no one knows how a global health crisis will affect the 2020 election.

Listen now on Campaign Beat, MTPR's weekly political analysis program, with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

Gubernatorial Campaigns Go Digital In Response To Public Health Concerns

Mar 20, 2020

Less than a week after Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in Montana in preparation for a coronavirus pandemic, response to the disease is having an impact on the campaigns of Bullock’s would-be successors. Most of those campaigns have now gone digital, with Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates using social media to interact with voters and spread word of the public health emergency.

Election sign at a Missoula polling place.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

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.

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