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Turnout for the Billings City Council primary race didn't break any records but was right about where election officials anticipated it would be. 

Overall, 47,062 ballots were mailed out to Billings residents for the primary election, and 18,148 were returned, a turnout of 38%. 

Bret Rutherford, Yellowstone County elections administrator, on Monday said ballot returns were on par with similar elections from the past. 

The primaries with the most candidates seemed to perform the best in terms of turnout. 

Ward 4, which had six candidates on its ballot, had the best showing. Of the 15,092 ballots mailed out to Ward 4 residents, 6,101 were returned and accepted by the elections office, a 40% turnout. 

Ward 5 followed with a turnout rate of 35%. The race, with five candidates, saw 12,021 ballots mailed out. By election night, 4,149 had been returned and accepted by the elections office.

Ward 1, with three candidates running, had the fewest ballots go out, 8,598, and the fewest returned with 2,629. Still it made for a turnout rate of 31%.

In Ward 2, four candidates appeared on the ballot. The elections office mailed out 11,351 ballots and by election night voters had returned 3,331, a turnout of 29%. 

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The elections office still has provisional ballots to count. That will take place Monday, per state law.

Final unofficial election day results for the primary were counted and reported before 9 p.m. Tuesday, considerably earlier than in years past, when vote counts stretched into the wee hours of the morning. 

This year, new law state allows county elections offices to begin opening returned ballots three business days before Election Day and to begin counting them the day before Election Day.

In the past, mailed-in ballots couldn't be opened before Election Day, and they couldn't be counted until polls closed at 8 p.m.

With the new law in place, election officials in Yellowstone County began opening ballots Friday and started their count Monday.

The head start sped things along Tuesday night, helping election officials post unofficial final results before 8:10 p.m.

With the city council primaries ended, the remaining candidates will now gear up for the Nov. 5 general election. 

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