Ballot envelopes

Ballot envelopes sit in the Yellowstone County elections office on Sept. 21.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

Billings police have had at least 10 calls about missing absentee ballots from residents' mailboxes.

The calls to the Billings Police Crime Prevention Center came from multiple Billings neighborhoods, most before noon on Wednesday and Thursday, said Crime Prevention Officer Tom Keightley. 

Callers reported at least one person had rifled through their personal mailbox and taken a ballot. Some reported other outgoing mail was not taken, though it was put out at the same time as their ballot, Keightley said. 

The Billings Police Department is investigating the incidents, according to a press release. Police are trying to determine if there are any other mail thefts that have occurred and the exact locations of the mail thefts throughout the city, the release stated. 

An officer who responded to a call about one of the thefts saw multiple mailboxes opened on one street, with mail strewn about the area, Keightley said.

Police do not see a pattern as to why certain neighborhoods had their ballots stolen and others did not, Keightley said. The crimes might not be motivated by politics — it could just be vandalism, Keightley said.

This is the first time the BPD can recall having to deal with this type of theft, Billings Police Capt. Kevin Iffland said. 

Police recommend voters either drop off ballots at the county election office or put them in the secure blue post office boxes in town, Keightley said. 

If someone sees a person searching through mail, they should not confront the person, Keightley said. Calling 911 and getting an officer out to the location right away is the best course of action, Keightley said.

As of Friday morning, about 61,000 absentee ballots had been sent to voters in Yellowstone County. About 15,500 have been returned to the Yellowstone County Elections Office.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect or suspects is asked to contact the Billings Police Department at 406-657-8460 or Crime Stoppers at 406-245-6660. People wishing to notify the United States Postal Service are asked to call 877-876-2455.

For people who want to check the status of their ballot, they can visit the Voter Page on the Montana Secretary of State's website. They also can call their local election office.

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Justice reporter for The Billings Gazette.