HELENA – Local election officials Friday mailed out 350,000 absentee ballots for Montana’s primary election, with a slightly different twist: Voters will choose from three political party primaries, instead of the usual two.
In addition to the Democratic and Republican party ballots, Montana voters can choose this year to vote in the Green Party primary, which has only one contested race, for U.S. Senate.
But whatever party ballot they choose, they can vote only for that party’s candidates.
“On the general election ballot, you can vote for whichever party that you want (in any race), but a primary election is a party’s nominating election, and you only get to vote in one of those,” says Audrey McCue, elections supervisor for Lewis and Clark County in Helena.
Ballots went out in the mail Friday to the 350,000 people who requested them.
But voters can still request absentee ballots up until June 4, the day before primary Election Day. They have until Election Day, June 5, to return absentee ballots – and, they also have until Election Day to register to vote.
Races at the top of the June 5 primary-election ticket include the four-way Republican primary for U.S. Senate and the six-candidate Democratic primary for the U.S. House. Numerous other contested Democratic and Republican primaries exist in local down-ballot races as well.
Voters on the absentee list will get three separate party ballots. They’re supposed to choose one to vote, place it in the “ballot secrecy envelope,” place the unused ballots in another envelope and mail or bring all three ballots to the county election office.
However, if they don’t send back the unused ballots, the voted ballot will still be counted, McCue says.
If a voter marks more than one party ballot and returns them, they won’t be counted, McCue says.
While the Green Party ballot has only one contested race, between Steve Kelly and Tim Adams for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination, Green Party State Coordinator Danielle Breck said Friday she’s hopeful that voters will consider choosing the party’s ballot.
Anyone choosing the Green Party ballot cannot vote for any candidates in Republican or Democratic primaries.
Breck said that Kelly and Adams are “significantly different candidates,” and encouraged voters who want to choose the Green Party to “do your homework” before voting.
The Green Party ballot also offers an unusual opportunity for write-in candidates.
In races that already have a candidate printed on the ballot, votes for write-in candidates will be counted only if the write-in has pre-filed as a candidate with state or local election officials.
But for any race that has no candidate already printed on the ballot, all write-in votes will be counted – and almost every race on the Green Party ballot is without a filed candidate.
If a Green Party write-in candidate gets enough votes, they could qualify for the November general election ballot. They would have to get at least 5 percent of the number of votes received by the winning candidate of the respective office in the 2016 election.