HELENA — Forty of Montana's 56 counties have decided to go to all-mail ballots for the Nov. 3 general election – including all but one of the state’s eight most populous counties.
Flathead County is the only county with a major city – Kalispell – that has decided against all mail ballots, opting to have polling places open for the general election, on Nov. 3. It will still send mail ballots out to those who request absentee ballots.
But the counties that include Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Helena, Butte, Great Falls and Hamilton have decided to mail ballots to all registered voters, because of health concerns and difficulties arranging Election Day polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
All Montana counties, including those mailing ballots to all registered voters, also will allow voters to drop off their ballots at county election offices or, in some cases, drop boxes in additional locations.
For example, in Sanders County in western Montana -- which is mailing ballots to all registered voters -- drop boxes will be placed at several towns across the county and, on Election Day, at many of the usual polling places, said Clerk and Recorder Nichol Scribner.
Thirteen counties have decided to conduct the Nov. 3 general election as usual, with polling places on Election Day and absentee ballots by request.
Lincoln County in northwestern Montana is expected to decide on Wednesday and two other counties, Jefferson and Treasure, said they plan to decide next week.
Earlier this month, Gov. Steve Bullock used his emergency power to allow Montana counties to choose whether they wanted to conduct the Nov. 3 election with polling places on Election Day or move to an all-mail ballot – but still allow people to drop off ballots in person, at county election offices.
County election officials had formally requested that Bullock give them the option of going to all-mail ballots.
The 40 counties that have decided on all-mail ballots will be mailing ballots to all registered voters on Oct. 9. Voters can mail their ballots back or drop them off in person.
All Montana counties went to mail ballots for the June 2 primary election, which saw a record-high voter turnout.
Ravalli County, the seventh-largest county in the state, decided Tuesday morning to use all-mail ballots.
Clerk and Recorder Regina Plettenberg said while the county will be mailing ballots to all registered voters, it also will be setting up drop boxes where voters can return ballots in person.