BILLINGS — Absentee ballots for the upcoming general election will arrive in Yellowstone County mailboxes over the next few days.
Bret Rutherford, the county’s elections administrator, is preparing to mail about 58,000 absentee ballots on Friday, Oct. 14. He said they are likely to be delivered within a few days and asked voters to wait until Wednesday before they call to report their ballot missing, since it could take the postal service time to process that much mail.
Rutherford said about 7,000 more people requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 general election than received them for the June primary.
“There’s been an uptick,” he said. “It’s a presidential election. That’s normal.”
Voters who applied to be on the list for absentee ballots before the primary will receive one for the general election, he said. Voters who applied for only a primary election ballot will not, unless they update their request. Anyone can check their voter registration status online, but may want to ask at the elections office in the courthouse if they are on the absentee ballot list.
Voter registration information is available at www.sos.mt.gov on the “My Voter” page.
Also, anyone who moved since the primary should update their registration to include their new address, Rutherford said, because ballots are not forwarded by the postal service.
Voters can return their absentee ballots by mail or in person to the courthouse elections office.
People who want to register to vote can do that at the elections office, too, Rutherford said. Early registration closed this week, but late registration opened Wednesday and people can register to vote until noon on Election Day, he said.
“I do not recommend registering on Election Day,” Rutherford said. Most voters would have to register at MetraPark, where the Elections Office will move on Nov. 8. Rural voters will not be able to register there, he said.
“It takes 10 to 15 minutes to do one person,” Rutherford said. “It starts to snowball” and many voters are delayed.
“There’s absolutely no reason to wait until Election Day,” he said, calling that option “a last resort.”
It’s too early to predict voter turnout, Rutherford said, but in general elections, 90 percent or more voters in Yellowstone County who receive absentee ballots typically return them.
With most polling places consolidated to MetraPark, Rutherford said the county needs fewer election judges than in the past. Most elections need about 200 judges, down from 400 in the days when there were more local polling sites. But he welcomes anyone who would like to volunteer for the job by contacting the elections office.