Montanans are reminded that they must register to vote by 5 p.m. on Tuesday in order to cast a ballot at the polls or receive an absentee ballot in the mail for the 2012 general election, which will be held on Nov. 6.

Oct. 9 marks the close of Montana’s regular voter registration period. It is also the deadline for counties to mail the first round of absentee ballots to identified absentee voters.

We’re already seeing a record number of absentee ballot requests.

It’s important for voters to know that they must register to vote by Tuesday in order to receive their absentee ballot in the mail or cast a ballot at the polls.

Campaigns and other groups collecting voter registration applications must also have them turned in by Tuesday.

Montanans have an expectation that if they register with a voter registration drive, their application will be submitted in time – the sooner the better.

Counties are set to mail more than 218,000 absentee ballots to voters on Tuesday, which will reach about 33 percent of the state’s 662,786 registered voters.

That’s a dramatic increase from this time in 2010, when counties mailed approximately 140,800 absentee ballots, reaching 22 percent of the registered voters in Montana.

That number rose to 173,039 Montanans, or 47 percent of registered voters, voting by absentee ballot in the 2010 general election.

If you haven’t registered to vote, you still have time. In Montana, you can late register and vote at the county election office right up through the close of polls on election day.

Those who register after the close of regular registration must do so in person at the county election office. Late registrants are issued an absentee ballot that must be returned to the county election office by 8 p.m. on election day.

Voters are encouraged to check their registration status using My Voter Page, which can be accessed online and in the Apple and Droid app markets.

The My Voter Page site also has precinct-specific sample ballots, maps to polling place locations, and an absentee ballot tracking service. Printable voter registration cards and absentee ballot applications can be found online at sos.mt.gov/elections.

Linda McCulloch is the Montana secretary of state.

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