According to the Montana Secretary of State's office on Friday, about 32 percent of Montana voters have returned ballots so far this election.
In Yellowstone County, the Friday numbers were 30,779 ballots accepted by return mail out of 86,841 sent out — about 35 percent.
We are considerably ahead of the statewide voting rate so far in Yellowstone County (in 2016, 47.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Yellowstone County, compared with 45.25 percent statewide.)
Statewide turnout is expected to be roughly similar this year.
This is "just" a primary election. As is often the case, there's no suspense left in the presidential primary by the time Montana gets its say.
But there's plenty for our voters to weigh in on.
Republicans and Democrats alike have big decisions to make about who will best represent their respective parties in the governor's race. They also have some winnowing to do in races for U.S. Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and in other statewide races, including attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and insurance commissioner, and superintendent of public instruction.
Certainly, the coronavirus pandemic has affected Montana's election. But the truth is, it has made it easier than ever to vote this year.
Every county in Montana, including Yellowstone, opted to conduct this year's primary election by mail to avoid risk to voters and election workers and volunteers. Every registered voter was sent a mail-in ballot. Voters choose their party's ballot from those provided, fill it in and mail it back. Since there is no way to vote in person, postage for each return envelope is paid by Yellowstone County.
So, in addition to the cost of printing the ballots, the county has paid more than $80,000 just to send the ballots to the voters and back.
So among the very good reasons to vote are these three: There's a lot at stake. Your ballot represents a significant investment in the election process. And it's never been easier to participate.
The biggest reason of all, of course, is to protect the very form of government that gives you the right to make the choices that affect almost every aspect of our lives. So if you haven't yet done so, please make your voting decisions, mark your ballot and stick it in the mail.
Help all of us create a more perfect union. The best form of government in the world depends on it.
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