Primary To Be All Mail-In Ballots
April 8, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the government’s response to it, appear to have impacted most every aspect of Americans’ daily lives, as well as aspects of life that do not occur daily. Elections often bring to mind the image of polling booths, decked out in red, white and blue bunting. But that image has already been fading in parts of the country instead being replaced by voting-by-mail.
Montana may prove to be ahead of the national curve in this aspect of responding to the respiratory illness that has disrupted life across the globe however.
Montana has offered absentee voting by mail for some years now, allowing voters the opportunity to peruse their ballots and measures at home before making their decisions and returning their ballots via the post office or by dropping them off at the court house. What is different this year is that all ballots and voting will be done via the postal service and there will not be a central polling location in Glasgow for the June primaries.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued a directive on March 25, allowing all counties in the state the option to conduct all-mail elections and expand early voting for the primary. As of April 7, all 56 counties in the state will be conducting the 2020 primary election by mail. In Valley County, the decision was made on March 30 to proceed with an all-mail election and should call ahead.
The local school board election was already established as a mail-in election only, with ballots being sent to all registered voters. The school board ballots will be sent out on April 17, with the final day to turn in ballots being April 27. Those who are not registered to vote may still visit the Valley County Courthouse to register for this year’s elections.
Ballots for the primary election are scheduled to be mailed out on May 8 and no postage will be necessary for returning the ballots. Unregistered persons will have until May 26 to register, or complete same-day registration on June 2. Ballots can be returned via mail or dropped at the courthouse. All active voters in the county will be mailed ballots.
Valley County Clerk and Recorder Taryn Aberg told the Courier the transition to an all-mail election for the primary has been an easy one for the county as “around 80 percent of voters had selected by mail anyway.”
In fact, the county may be looking at saving funds by not having a polling place open this year as election judges will not be on site.
Those who want to register on Election Day, a voting booth will be set up in the lobby of the courthouse and Aberg said that the polling location in Frazer may still be open, but the county is still working on that with tribal leaders.
Valley County will also make contingency plans for the general election in November, in the event that social distancing requirements are still in place at that time.