People in the city of Havre are now casting their ballots for City Council and city judge.
Sadly, there are few races. Three of the four council races are uncontested, as is the city judge race. Democracy depends on voters getting a choice to pick from on Election Day, and for a variety of reasons, many Havre people have been reluctant to step forward.
In the 3rd Ward, there is a vigorous contest between two candidates of different political philosophies, styles and personalities. The voters have a clear choice and it will be interesting too see what voters decide.
There might be a reluctance on the part of many voters to cast ballots in this race if they had to leave their homes and travel to a polling place. Fortunately, political leaders in Montana and especially in Havre have decided that won't be necessary.
Ballots have been mailed to Havre voters, and they can study the ballots and make a decision in their living rooms. The experiment in mail-in ballots for municipal elections has been underway. From what we've seen, it has been a total success.
Voters seem to like it. Hill County officials like it, and voter turnout has increased.
Mail-in ballots combined with other reforms have resulted in an overall increase in turnout throughout Montana.
Some people have qualms about the new system, fearing that it increases the chance of voter fraud. We wouldn't stay up at night worrying about voter fraud in Montana. From all that we have seen, there is no effort by political parties of either stripe and certainly not on the part of county officials to rig elections. For the last century, anyway, Montana has a history of clean elections. If some wanted to fix an election, it probably would be easier to do so at polling places, not in mail ballots.
The political pundits can disagree over which political party will benefit from having mail-in ballots. That's not our concern. The question should be, are voters served better?
We think they are.
The experiment with mail-in local election ballots have shown the value of the new system.
It should be extended to school district, state and federal elections.