HELENA – Election officials and political observers in Montana are expecting a larger-than-average turnout for Tuesday’s 2018 midterm election, with what appears to be high interest in races up and down the ballot.
As of Monday morning, a record-high 303,000 Montanans had already voted by submitting absentee ballots through the mail – but many more votes will be coming in the door on Monday and Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of Montanans will be voting Tuesday the old-fashioned way: Going to the polls in person, starting at 7 a.m. and continuing until 8 p.m.
But there are other ways you can cast your vote Tuesday – whether you’ve registered to vote or not:
• The time for requesting absentee ballots is past, but thousands of voters who requested a ballot have yet to turn them in. They can still do that Tuesday, in person, either at polling places or the local county election office, up until 8 p.m.
• If you’ve mailed your absentee ballot and aren’t sure it will get there in time, you can come to the county election office and cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted if your other ballot doesn’t show up by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Any voter who has doubts about their absentee ballot being valid can stop into county election offices and see whether it’s possible to fill out a replacement.
• If you’re not registered to vote, you can register Tuesday at the county election office, up until 8 p.m. You’ll be given a ballot after you register and can fill it out and turn it in. If you’re in line by 8 p.m. to register, you’ll be able to vote.
Turnout for the 2014 mid-term elections in Montana was about 55 percent. This year, most observers expect the turnout to be in the 60 percent to 65 percent range.
The top race this year is the U.S. Senate contest among Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Republican Matt Rosendale and Libertarian Rick Breckenridge.
About $60 million has been spent on the contest, including money from the campaigns and outside groups. Most polls have shown Tester with a slight lead or rate the race a toss-up.
The race for Montana’s U.S. House seat also has drawn plenty of attention, with Republican Representative Greg Gianforte facing Democratic challenger Kathleen Williams and Libertarian Elinor Swanson.
Voters also will decide four ballot measures, the clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, two Public Service Commission seats and 125 state Senate and House races. Two Montana Supreme Court justices are running unopposed.
Story by Mike Dennison, MTN News