Thousands of voters will be receiving their absentee ballots in the mail in the coming days.
Tuesday marks the end of the regular voter registration period and is also the deadline for counties to mail the first round of absentee ballots.
“I think we will be a lot busier than in the primary (election),” Marilyn Bracken, Lewis and Clark County elections supervisor, said. “We had almost 8,000 (mail in ballots) in the primary.”
By Friday, about 14,000 people had requested absentee ballots. Bracken said that number would increase notably after applications received over the weekend and today are tallied.
“We’re already seeing a record number of absentee-ballot requests,” Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said Friday.
Officials estimate 218,000 absentee ballots will be sent across the Big Sky Country, reaching 33 percent of the 662,786 registered voters in the state.
In the 2010 general election, 173,039 voters requested absentee ballots.
Bracken speculates that there are two reasons why the number of absentee ballots has increased.
“More and more people want to do absentee ballots from their home,” she said. “And (two), there’s at least five different groups that have sent out applications this year.”
Political groups can send out absentee ballot applications. Bracken said one group has sent three or four applications to the same people.
Terri McCoy, communications director for the secretary of state’s office, said, “We don’t keep a list of the groups, but when they call, we help them follow applicable laws.”
McCoy said these groups have the option to purchase a statewide voter list, but in some cases they pull names from a phone book.
Bracken and McCoy have said tensions are high this time of year and the increase in mail adds to it. But Bracken is quick to point out these third-party groups have played an important role in increasing voter registration.
People who haven’t registered to vote yet still have time, McCulloch said. “In Montana, you can late register and vote at the county election office right up through the close of polls on Election Day.”
Absentee ballots will not, however, be accepted from noon to 5 p.m. the day before Election Day.
Polling stations will open at 7 a.m. on Election Day and close at 8 p.m. Precincts with fewer than 400 registered voters will open at noon.
“(People) need to be very careful when filling out the ballot,” said Bracken. “If they touch the pen in an oval they didn’t mean to, even if it’s just a spot, then the computer counts that as an over-count. By law we are allowed a resolution board and can run it through again.”
She said she doesn’t see a ton of those, but people do need to be careful because recounts take time.
“The worst thing that voters do is not sign the affirmation envelope on the outside and if they forget to do that, then their ballot will not count,” she said. “We have to call them and have them come in and sign it.”
Voters are encouraged to check their registration status using My Voter Page, which can be accessed online at https://app.mt.gov/voterinfo/ and through Apple and Droid apps.
To locate polling place locations for each precinct, maps can be found on the My Voter Page. Printable voter registration cards and absentee ballot applications can be found online as well.