BILLINGS – Yellowstone County is well on its way to setting a new record for voter turnout for a mid-term election, according to election officials. And they’re concerned that because of the two-page ballot, the counting process will likely spill into Wednesday.
Yellowstone County Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford said by day’s end Monday, around 58,000 absentee ballots will be turned in. That puts Yellowstone County well on its way to beating the previous largest midterm turnout of 59,616 in 2006.
Getting all those ballots counted could create a challenge. Under Montana law, they can’t be counted until after the polls close at 8 p.m. on election night. It was 1:30 a.m. before all the votes were counted in the 2016 presidential election, and the mail-in ballot only had one sheet that year.
This year, the mail-in ballot has two sheets, which could mean a long night for election workers and a long wait for voters to get all the results– particularly for the two initiatives, I-185 and I-186, on the second page.
Rutherford said even though the final results on the initiatives may not be known until the business day on Wednesday, voters should still have a pretty good idea what happened by late Tuesday night.
“The second sheet for Yellowstone County will have some results for all precincts. We will tabulate all the polling place ballots for select precincts, so there is at least a good sampling of what’s happening with those two referendums,” said Rutherford.
Still if Yellowstone County, with the most voters in the state, doesn’t have all the results in, it will most likely mean that the rest of the state won’t know for certain until Wednesday if those initiatives passed, especially if the voting is close.
Rutherford also wants to remind voters that If you received an absentee ballot and it still is in good order, you need to return it by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Drop it off at any of the polling places or the county election office. You can’t just throw it away and then go to the polls and vote a normal ballot. There are about 14,000 people that have not returned their absentee ballots in Yellowstone County.
Reporting by Russ Riesinger for MTN News