MISSOULA — Voters should get ready to check their mailboxes.
The Missoula County Elections Office will mail more than 70,000 ballots to voters across the county on Friday, May 8, ahead of the June federal primary election.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Missoula County to conduct the primary election solely by mail.
Polling places will not be open, and ballots are due back by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2.
Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive in March allowing counties the option to run the primary as an all-mail election due to COVID-19 concerns.
Missoula County commissioners approved a resolution on April 2 to take advantage of that option. All 56 counties in Montana will conduct an all-mail election.
Election Administrator Bradley Seaman said there are a few things that voters should keep in mind as they receive, complete, and return their primary ballots.
“For the first time in Missoula, return postage is paid,” Seaman said. “So, after voters vote they can simply drop the ballot in the mail. There’s no need for a stamp or to drop off the ballot in person.”
Seaman also noted that for the first time, ballot packets will include “I Voted” stickers.
“The ‘I Voted’ sticker is a special souvenir,” Seaman said. “It took a few extra steps, but we’re glad our mail-ballot voters will get to show them off this election.”
Seaman added that since Montana holds open primaries and doesn’t require voters to register a party affiliation, all voters will receive more than one ballot in the primary election.
People should only make selections on one ballot and destroy the unvoted ballots.
Seaman stressed that if, for example, a voter votes a few races on each ballot and returns them, none of the votes will count.
“Voters need to choose just one to complete and return,” Seaman said. “The other, unvoted ballots may be destroyed.”
Most Missoula County voters will receive ballots for the Democratic, Green, and Republican parties.
However, more than 11,000 voters, however, will receive four ballots.
“In Senate District 45, there is a primary race between two Libertarian candidates, so voters in that district will receive four ballots total,” Seaman said.
Senate District 45 includes House Districts 89 and 90 and is a larger district that covers the areas south and east of Missoula.
The governor’s directive also extends registration deadlines.
Voters may register or update an existing registration by turning in a voter registration form, by mail or in person, through the end of the day on Tuesday, May 26.
After that, they may still register or update their registration, but they must appear in person at the Elections Center at 140 North Russell Street.
Voters can access the voter registration application and other forms here.
Seaman is encouraging voters not to wait to register and vote.
Each election year, hundreds of Missoula County voters opt to register and vote – and wait in line – on Election Day at the Election Center.
Seaman said voters are strongly urged not to wait until June 2.
“Same-day registration will be available,” Seaman said. “But for the safety of voters and election workers, there will be limits on the number of people allowed in the Elections Center at one time."
Seaman said staff will assist voters who opt to wait to vote on June 2, but voters who choose to wait until then should expect longer wait times and social distancing requirements.
“We’re really, really encouraging voters to please not wait to register and vote,” he said in a news release.