Montana Election Officials Ready For Presidential Primary Voters

Mar 23, 2016


Montana election officials say it’s unlikely the state’s June primary election will see the kinds of long lines and ballot shortages that overwhelmed Arizona officials in Tuesday’s presidential primary election.

The Arizona Republic reported people waited for hours at some polling stations after county election officials reduced the number of sites to save money. The newspaper says at least one polling place ran out of ballots.

“I’m not really worried about our polling places just because we generally don’t see a lot of walk in voters for primary elections,” says Bret Rutherford is election administrator for Montana’s most populous county, Yellowstone.

Yellowstone County is among others that moved the majority of in-person voting to a central location, MetraPark. The decision was based largely on the fact it is now easier for registered voters to cast their ballots by mail.

Rutherford says with the increased numbers of Montanans voting by mail there’s little need for so many polling stations. “So there really shouldn’t be much waiting at all,” he says. “If you’ve been seeing the national news, seeing those lines outside of buildings, you’re probably not going to see that in Yellowstone County anywhere.”

That’s expected to be the case across Montana says top state elections officials Linda McCulloch.

But she is says because of the high level of interest in this year’s presidential primary local election administrators were told be prepared.  “And to plan ahead,” she says. “And we always advise them to have plenty of ballots on hand and to make sure they have plenty of staff, plenty of election judges.”

The long lines that were reported in past Montana elections were due to people waiting in line to register to vote on election day.   Because of that, Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund suggests residents check right now to see if they are registered to vote for this year’s election. The Republican adds at the same time people can request their absentee ballot.

“It’s a great way to vote by mail ballot,” Ostlund says. “But we will be prepared, trust me.  We will not have an issue where we run out of ballots or don’t allow people to vote.”

Residents can verify their voting status and request an absentee ballot at the Montana Secretary of State’s website.

Montana’s primary election is June 7, 2016.