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Almost 200K absentee votes already returned ahead of Montana primary

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2024 Primary Absentee Ballots
Posted at 5:55 PM, Jun 03, 2024

HELENA — Election offices around Montana closed their late voter registration period at noon Monday – though, because of a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, they will be offering Election Day registration on Tuesday. While no more early ballots are being handed out, many voters kept coming by the Lewis and Clark County Elections Office Monday afternoon to tun their absentee ballots in.

As of Sunday night, the Montana Secretary of State’s Office reported election officials had already received 188,246 absentee ballots. That’s just under 42% of the 449,224 ballots sent out across the state – and already 25% of the 753,169 registered voters in Montana.

The Secretary of State reported 18,762 more votes had come in statewide between Thursday night and Sunday night.

2024 Primary Absentee Ballots

Glacier County has had the smallest share of its absentee votes returned so far, at 30%. Gallatin and Big Horn Counties are both at around 34%. Judith Basin, Chouteau and Sheridan Counties have all had at least 55% of their absentee ballots turned in.

In recent election cycles, absentee ballots have made up as much as 78% of the total votes cast in Montana elections.

Jeremy Johnson, an associate professor of political science at Carroll College, says the numbers so far indicate fairly strong interest in this year’s primary – especially considering that the presidential race isn’t hotly contested.

“We've known for a long time that Biden will be the Democratic nominee and Trump will be the Republican nominee, so to get to 25% already, I think it's a decent showing – and we'll definitely see more votes coming in here,” he said.

In 2020, when elections were conducted entirely by mail during COVID, Montana’s primary turnout was almost 55%. Except for that race, turnout in presidential primary years has ranged from 33% to 45% over the last 30 years.

In 2022, more than 280,000 absentee votes were already cast by the day before the November general election – 37% of registered voters. The final turnout in that election ended up at 61%.

If you still haven’t turned in your absentee ballot, the only way to make sure it will count is to return it in person by 8 p.m. Tuesday. To find out where you can bring it, you can contact your county elections office.

Polling places will also be open Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m except at small polling places that may open at noon.