MISSOULA — UPDATE: 3:35 pm, 5/27/20
The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday said the deadline for receiving mailed, absentee ballots in Montana’s primary election will remain at 8 p.m. Election Day, next Tuesday – thus blocking a district judge’s order that said the ballots need only be postmarked by Tuesday.
The 5-2 decision said the high court will consider an appeal of last Friday’s ruling by District Judge Don Harris of Billings, but that the current deadline law will remain for the primary election.
1st REPORT, 4:59 pm, 5/26/20
Following a District Court ruling issued last week, Missoula County will now accept ballots that are postmarked by or on June 2.
The ruling from Yellowstone County Judge Donald Harris states that the ballots have to be postmarked with a date no later than June 2, and received by Monday, June 8.
“We’re still consulting with legal counsel and other elections officials around the state,” said Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman. “But right now, we’ll abide by the order and count ballots postmarked no later than June 2.”
In the past, ballots had to be returned to officials by 8 p.m. on Election Day and postmarks were not sufficient but this year, Montana is holding the election entirely by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Missoula County reports that as of May 26, 34% of voters have returned their ballots. This year, the county has also paid for postage on the return envelope in order to cut down on the possible spread of coronavirus.
Seaman says with all of the changes, these are the most important to remember,
"All ballots were mailed to voters. Polling places will be closed so the only place you can get a ballot will be here at the election center on election day. And don't wait. In order to help make sure that you're protecting the health and safety of your friends, loved ones, election workers and voters alike, we want to make sure that you do everything you can not to come in on Tuesday or we’ll have a lot of cross contact. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we're practicing social distancing and minimizing contact."
Late voter registration will begin on May 27 with new registrants and voters having to appear in person at the office. The late voter registration will close at noon on June 1, while same day registration will open at 7 a.m. on Election Day. Voter services will be available on June 2 at the Elections Center at 140 North Russell Street.
“Though we will help every voter who comes to the Election Center on June 2, we’re really urging people not to wait until then,” Seaman said. “Your voting experience will certainly go a lot smoother if you register and vote before June 2.”
Missoula will also offer drive-thru ballot drop-off at five various locations throughout the county.
The locations, which will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, are:
- Missoula County Fairgrounds
- Lolo Elementary School
- Bonner School
- Seeley Lake Elementary
- Frenchtown Fire Station