If you are among the 33,000 Yellowstone County voters who have already returned mail ballots for the Nov. 7 election, thanks for doing your civic duty. If you are among the majority of registered voters who haven’t yet sent in ballots, please take the steps below to ensure that your opinion counts next Tuesday:

  • Return the ballot directly to the Yellowstone County Courthouse. Yellowstone County elections administrator advises voters to bring in their ballots in the few days remaining, rather than mailing them to ensure that they arrive by Tuesday and can be counted.
  • Drop off the ballot (or have a trusted person drop it off for you) at the elections office on the first floor of the courthouse at Third Avenue North and North 27th Street between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday and Monday, or between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday.
  • After regular business hours and over the weekend, deposit ballots at the secure drop box near the Third Avenue courthouse doors. The drop slot says “treasurer” and in smaller lettering: “absentee ballots.”
  • If you are eligible to vote in Yellowstone County, but didn’t receive a ballot in the mail, you may still register and vote at the elections office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday, from 8 a.m. till noon on Monday and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday. (Don’t wait till the last hour!)

There are important reasons to vote in this election:

1. All Yellowstone County voters will pass judgment on a public safety levy to support the county attorney’s efforts to protect abused and neglected children and to prosecute the growing number of drug-related crimes in our community.

2. Laurel voters are being asked to support levies to issue bonds for major facilities improvements in their high school and elementary schools. The high school levy would fund a significant upgrade in career and technical education. Voters in Laurel also are electing city council members, a mayor and city judge.

3. Lockwood voters will decide whether their K-8 school district should make a plan to become a K-12 district. If voters say yes, the school district will have two years to bring a plan back to voters to levy taxes for building a Lockwood high school and funding its ongoing operations. Then there would be a vote on the levies.

4. Voters in Broadview are being asked to write in their town council choices, because no candidates filed for the office.

5. Voters in Billings are electing six members of the 11-member City Council, including the mayor.

The Billings Gazette editorial board made Billings City Council recommendations in previous Gazette opinions and we summarize those endorsements here:

Mayor: Bill Cole is the ideal candidate for this nonpartisan job as the presiding officer of the Billings City Council. Billings needs a mayor to lead the city toward a future that retains and attracts young workers and grows our city with new and expanded businesses. Cole is a long-time community and business leader known for volunteering his time to make our good city great.

Ward 1: Re-elect Mike Yakawich to a second term for his enthusiastic outreach to constituents and tireless efforts to solve community problems, especially for the South Side neighborhood.

Ward 2: Elect Roger Gravgaard to replace Angela Cimmino, who is term-limited. Gravgaard is the best candidate for looking ahead to Billings’ future.

Ward 3: Support Denise Joy to replace Rich McFadden, who is term-limited. Joy is an educator who has done her homework, understands the needs of established neighborhoods and is an advocate for people with disabilities and other citizens who are often marginalized.

Ward 4: Vote for Penny Ronning, who has experience in small business as well as a record of community leadership and volunteerism to protect children and other vulnerable citizens. Incumbent Ward 4 Councilman Al Swanson isn’t seeking re-election.

Ward 5: Re-elect Shaun Brown for a second term. Brown has common-sense, analytical and good management skills much needed on the City Council.

As always, the editorial board’s strongest recommendation is to vote for the candidates of your choice and to weigh in on all the ballot issues that will affect your community.