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Lewis & Clark County switches June primary to mail ballot election

Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 20:01:31-04

HELENA — The Lewis and Clark County Commission has voted to conduct the June 2 primary as a mail ballot election, to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Commissioners approved the change Tuesday morning, during their first regular meeting conducted through video conference.

“I think this is appropriate for the situation we’re under right now,” said Commissioner Andy Hunthausen.

Lewis and Clark County Elections will send ballots to all active registered voters in the county on May 8. As of Tuesday, election officials said they had just over 40,000 active and provisionally registered voters.

People will still be able to vote in person by going into the county elections office in Helena, starting in May.

Last week, Gov. Steve Bullock gave counties the option to switch to mail ballot elections for the June. primary, as a way to avoid crowding at polling places. His order gave counties until Friday to inform the Montana Secretary of State’s Office whether they will adopt mail ballots.

Leaders have also made several other changes to the election procedure. They will extend the regular voter registration deadline to May 26, so that fewer voters will have to come into the county elections office for late registration.

Bullock’s directive also said voters should be able to mail in their ballots without paying postage. Typically, they have had to use a stamp in order to send a ballot in by mail. Lewis and Clark County elections supervisor Audrey McCue said officials are currently in discussions with the Postal Service about how to provide postage for the June 2 ballots.

Lewis and Clark County already conducts many city, school and special district elections by mail, and commissioners said they expect the elections office can make this year’s changes smoothly.

“All that staff down there just works hard, answers questions – very patient, very professional,” said Commissioner Susan Good Geise. “I’m very confident that this procedure that we’re talking about today is going to work very, very well.”

In the June 2 primary, voters will see U.S. Senate and U.S. House candidates, a number of state races and several Lewis and Clark County positions.

There is also another mail ballot election this spring in Lewis and Clark County, for school district trustees. McCue said those ballots will be mailed out on April 20 and due back by May 5, so voters will not have both sets of ballots at the same time.

You can find more information at the Lewis and Clark County Elections website.

The Cascade County Commission will vote on its own mail ballot resolution Wednesday. Other counties, including Gallatin, Missoula and Flathead, have already announced plans to switch to all-mail ballots.