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More than 64K ballots already returned in Montana all-mail primary

Posted at 12:04 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 20:02:02-04

HELENA — More than 64,000 Montana voters turned in their ballots during the first five days of mail-voting – likely at least one-fifth of the total votes that will be cast in the Montana all-mail June 2 primary election.

According to the secretary of state, 64,307 ballots had been returned to county election offices as of Thursday evening. The number of returned ballots also may be higher, because two of the most populous counties -- Flathead and Gallatin – so far have reported unusually low totals.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Montana is conducting its first all-mail statewide election, mailing ballots to nearly 600,000 registered voters last Friday. The secretary of state reports daily totals of ballots returned to county election offices.

Montanans have until June 2 to return the ballots, either by mail or in-person. They also can still register to vote, up to and including on June 2, and request a ballot by mail or obtain one at county election offices.

However, county officials have recommended that any ballot returned by mail be in the mail by May 26, to ensure it arrives in time for counting on June 2.

It’s difficult to know what the ultimate turn-out will be in Montana’s first all-mail statewide election, but in recent primary elections, the total turnout has been just below 300,000 votes.

If that standard is applied to this year’s election, the ballots returned so far represent just over 20 percent of the total.

The primary election features multiple contested statewide races, including Republican and Democratic primaries for governor, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, attorney general and state auditor.

In most of the big counties, 15 percent or more of the ballots sent last Friday have already been returned. Yet in Gallatin and Flathead counties, only 2 percent and 1 percent of the ballots were reported to be returned as of Thursday.