If you are one of the 32,000 Yellowstone County citizens who already returned ballots for Monday school elections, thanks for voting.
If you are among the 48,000 who haven't yet voted, please mark your ballot and get it back to the elections office no later than Tuesday.
Ballots can be returned in the Yellowstone County Elections Office on the first floor of the County Courthouse 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. today and Monday and from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m., Tuesday. After business hours, today through Monday, ballots may be deposited in the Yellowstone County treasurer's drop box near the north door of the courthouse.
Tuesday is the day established by state law for Montana public schools to elect trustees and to present funding requests. In Yellowstone County:
- Laurel Public Schools are seeking five-year elementary and high school building reserve levies.
- Shepherd Public Schools propose a major bond issue to replace and renovate parts of the K-12 facilities.
- Blue Creek, Pioneer and Broadview school districts are asking their voters for permanent operating levy increases.
Billings Public Schools also is asking for a permanent operating levy increase for the high school district with nearly 6,000 students. Levy money would buy textbooks (print and digital), online learning resources and classroom equipment. The district would replace texts that are outdated and falling apart after 15 to 20 years of use during the next five years, and then to keep classroom materials updated on a seven-year replacement schedule. The voted levy also will be used to add a career counselor at each of the three main high schools and the Career Center. Those counselors would focus on helping students develop individual job seeking and career education plans, including connections with local businesses.
Billings voters haven't approved any new funds for their public high schools in the past 12 years. That's why students have such badly outdated classroom materials today. It's time to give students the updated resources they need to be competitive in today's job market. Please vote for the levy.
New law signed
Yellowstone and other large population counties that use machines to tabulate their thousands of ballots have better options today for efficiently doing that big job thanks to a new law Gov. Steve Bullock signed Wednesday.
Bullock approved Senate Bill 162, a measure requested by Montana county clerks and elections administrators and sponsored by Sen. Roger Webb, R-Billings. The new law allows counties to start opening, unfolding and securely boxing ballots the Thursday and Friday before Election Day and to start machine counting on Monday. Previously, the ballot prep couldn't start till Monday and counting was prohibited until election day. Montana law requires secrecy for all vote counts until after voting ends on Election Day.
Bret Rutherford, Yellowstone County elections administrator, and the top elections officials from Missoula, Ravalli, Cascade and Gallatin counties made multiple trips to Helena to ask lawmakers to help them provide correct election results sooner. In last November's election, the count of 70,000 ballots and on 140,000 sheets of paper wasn't completed until the middle of the afternoon the day after the election despite Yellowstone County election staff working all night and having no technical difficulties.
Thanks to Webb for championing this change that allows county election officials to do the best job for their citizens. Thanks to Bullock for signing it in time to be effective for the May 7 school elections. Our dedicated county election workers need sufficient time to secure every ballot, count every vote and deliver results to the public on election night.