MISSOULA- While candidates scramble for votes across Western Montana this weekend, a check on two of the largest counties show it’s probably too late to convince the majority of voters.
That’s because the bulk of absentee ballots are already back in the courthouses waiting to be counted.
Election offices have been buzzing this fall. It started with a strong request for absentee ballots over the past six weeks, and the early voting showed no sign of slowing down going into the final weekend.
We checked with elections officials in both Missoula and Ravalli counties and found anywhere from 60%-to-80% of those absentee voters are already done with their ballots.
More than 59,000 of Missoula County’s 85,000 voters opted to vote-by-mail this year — more than 69% of all voters.
Elections Administrator Dayna Causby says of those voters, over 61% have already mailed or dropped off their ballots by Friday afternoon.
That means if total voter turnout in Missoula hits 70%, there could be fewer than 25,000 votes still in play.
The returns are even more dramatic in Ravalli County. Elections Administrator Regina Plettenberg says over 16,000 voters opted to vote-by-mail this year, and 80% had already done so by Friday.
She’s projecting a total turnout of between 75%-to-80% or around 21,000 votes. If that’s the trend, there are probably only 5,000 votes still in play in the Bitterroot this weekend.
Voters are reminded it’s too late to mail your absentee ballots and be certain they’ll arrive with the proper postmark, so it’s better to drop them off a county elections center, or at a polling place on Election Day.