HELENA — Monday marked the start of early voting for the June 3 primary, as county election officials sent out more than 185,000 mail ballots across the state.
Secretary of State Linda McCulloch cast her vote Monday at the Lewis and Clark County election office.
“I like to get it done,” the state’s chief election official said. “I applied for a ballot and received it this morning. You have to go to the county election office to vote or a place designated by the county election office.”
Those receiving their absentee ballots by mail don’t have to go to their local election office. They can study the ballot at their leisure and mail it back in time to be counted on Election Day.
Political campaigns usually step up their advertising to coincide with the large number of absentee ballots being distributed.
Greater numbers of Montanans have been using absentee or mail ballots since the law changed in 1999 to allow people to vote absentee without having to specify a reason.
In the 2012 primary, McCulloch said 61 percent of voters statewide cast their votes in the primary election by absentee ballots. That figure dropped to 59 percent in the fall general election.
In Yellowstone County, 96 percent of voters voted absentee in the primary of 2012, she said.
As of Monday, nearly 658,000 Montanans were registered to vote, McCulloch’s office reported.
McCulloch said she expects Montana’s turnout to be a little better than usual for an off-year election, with both U.S. Senate and House seats up for grabs.
“We’re hoping for a good turnout,” she said. “You know me. I’m never content until there’s a 100 percent turnout.”
McCulloch reminded those voting absentee that they will receive two primary ballots in the mail, one Democratic and one Republican. They can only vote one party’s ballot.
Voter registration for the primary election closed Monday, but McCulloch said people can still register at their local county election office.
Late voter registration begins at 8 a.m. Tuesday, but must be done in person at the county election office or at a location designated by the county election administrator. These offices are temporarily closed between noon and 5 p.m. on June 2.
People can register up until 8 p.m. on June 3, which is Election Day.
McCulloch said late voter registration was first implemented in the 2006 federal primary after the Legislature changed the law the previous year.
Since then, nearly 66,000 Montanans have used it to register to vote and cast a ballot in a statewide election, she said. Of those Montanans, more than 28,000 have registered and voted on Election Day since then.
McCulloch said voters can track the status of their absentee ballot online, or by smart phone, with the My Voter Page (MVP) application. The MVP app also includes a voter’s registration information, polling place location and a precinct-specific absentee ballot.