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Montana Supreme Court: Ballots Must Be Received On Election Day

A photo of workers sorting through mailed ballots
Jackie Yamanaka
Election workers sort through mailed ballots in this undated image.

The Montana Supreme Court ruled this week that only ballots received by 8 P.M. on Nov. 3 will be counted in this year’s general election.

With ballots already printed, Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton argued that temporarily abandoning the state’s 8 P.M. Election Day ballot receipt deadline would cause confusion among voters.

The state Supreme Court agreed and granted a stay late on Sept. 29, writing the extension would disrupt the status quo and interfere with the state’s ability to administer an orderly election.

Yellowstone County District Judge Donald Harris had ruled on Sept. 25 that ballots postmarked by Election Day should be counted even if elections officials receive them after polls close.

On Sept. 28, Stapleton told the Supreme Court he intended to appeal another part of Harris’ order blocking the Ballot Interference Prevention Act (BIPA), which caps the number of ballots a person or group can drop off for someone else at six. The high court upheld Harris’ ruling against BIPA, pending full consideration by the court after Nov. 3.

In a separate case last week, Yellowstone County District Judge Jessica Fehr found BIPA unconstitutional. She issued a permanent injunction against the law.