Yellowstone County sees record voter turnout for midterm election

Posted at 2:10 PM, Nov 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-09 18:41:20-05

BILLINGS – By the time it’s complete, the 2018 election will boast one of the highest voter turnouts Yellowstone County has ever seen.

Nearly 70,000 Yellowstone County residents voted in this election, almost 10,000 votes more than in any other midterm election.

“We had never hit 60,000 with a midterm, and we are just going to be shy of 70,000 once all the provisionals are taken care of,” said Brett Rutherford, the Yellowstone County elections administrator.

The number is just shy of the turnout for the 2016 presidential election, which was just under 72,000.

“We knew… there was a lot of interest in this election,” said Rutherford. “But the sheer amount was a surprise.”

Rutherford said about 1,000 people were issued absentee ballots, but decided to vote in person. That is more than double the amount of people they usually have, which meant more people at the polls.

Just under 1,000 people were registered to vote the day of the election. The line to register was long throughout the day, and some waited well over an hour.

“We wish people would get registered before hand,” said Rutherford. “Maybe there is some stuff we will look at to maybe make it a little more efficient moving into the presidential election in two years…but you can’t just walk in and be handed a ballot if you’re not on the roll.”

It wasn’t so much the turnout as the two-page ballot that caused the longer-than-average delay in results.

Yellowstone County has three high-speed tabulators that usually make quick work of ballots, but since the number of pages doubled, it took a lot longer.

Rutherford told Q2 that it wasn’t until about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday that all of the first pages were counted. It was late Wednesday afternoon by the time election workers finished with the second page.

The final number won’t be confirmed until the nearly 3,000 provisional ballots are counted. Rutherford said that will happen on Tuesday afternoon.

Reporting by Samantha Sullivan for MTN News