HELENA — With just over one day left before the polls close in this year’s general election, almost 300,000 people across the state have already voted – but turnout is still lagging behind recent elections.
As of Sunday night, the Montana Secretary of State’s office reported 284,698 Montanans had turned in their absentee ballots. That’s 56.7% of the 501,683 ballots that have been mailed out. Overall, 37.4% of the state’s 760,404 registered voters have already turned out.
In Montana’s largest counties, the turnout so far ranges from a high of 45.1% in Yellowstone County to a low of 33.2% in Flathead County. Missoula County had 40.6% of ballots returned as of Sunday, Lewis and Clark County was at 39.7%, Cascade County was at 38.3%, Ravalli County was at 37.3% and Silver Bow County was at 35.8%. Gallatin County, where leaders have reported postal issues with mail ballots, was at 35.4%.
The highest turnout so far is in Deer Lodge, Golden Valley and Valley Counties, each with close to 47% of ballots turned in by Sunday. Big Horn, Roosevelt, Richland and Glacier Counties all had less than 20% of their ballots returned.
Statewide, turnout is on track to be lower than the last midterm election in 2018, when more than 43% percent of voters had turned in ballots by the Friday before Election Day, and the final turnout was 71%. Significantly more ballots were also returned by this point in 2020, when there was a final turnout of 81% – though it’s harder to compare since that was a presidential election and conducted entirely through mail ballots.
In 2010, the last Montana election with no presidential, senatorial or gubernatorial race on the ballot, turnout was 56%.
At the City-County Building in Helena, Lewis and Clark County election officials say Monday morning was busy, with around 150 people coming in before noon for late voter registration.
The number of registered voters will continue to climb. Last year, Republicans in the Montana Legislature and Gov. Greg Gianforte approved a new law that would eliminate voter registration on Election Day. However, a district judge in Billings ruled the law was unconstitutional, so in this election, residents can still register and vote at their county elections offices or other designated locations until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
You can find out where your late registration location is by contacting your local election administrator. Their contact information is available on the Secretary of State’s website or at votinginmontana.org.
Of course, polling places will also be open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday. If you have an absentee ballot that you haven’t yet returned, you’ll have until 8 p.m. to get turned in – and the only way to make sure it’s counted is to drop it off in person.