Today the election starts in full swing, with absentee ballots hitting the mail and with 5 p. m. the deadline for normal registration.
Use of absentee ballots, mailed to voters to be returned to their county clerk and recorder’s office by Election Day, has increased monumentally in Montana.
Hill County Clerk and Recorder Darla Dahl said Wednesday that almost 25 percent of active voters in the county — 1,907 — were set to receive absentee ballots.
“This number seems to increase daily, ” Dahl added.
Today also marks the last day for regular voter registration, required to be able to vote at the polling sites or by absentee ballot. Later than today, voters can register in the clerk and recorder’s office, but must turn their ballot in to that office.
Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said last week that absentee voting has skyrocketed in the last two years.
“We’re already seeing a record number of absentee ballot requests, ” McCulloch said in a press release. “It’s important for voters to know that they must register to vote by (today) in order to receive their absentee ballot in the mail, or cast a ballot at the polls.
“Campaigns and other groups collecting voter registration applications must also have them turned in by (today), ” McCulloch added.
As of Thursday, McCulloch’s release said, Montana counties were set to mail more than 218,000 absentee ballots to voters, about one-third of the state’s 662,786 registered voters.
Two years ago, counties mailed approximately 140,800 absentee ballots.
“If you haven’t registered to vote, you still have time, ” McCulloch added in the release. “In Montana, you can late register and vote at the county election office right up through the close of polls on Election Day. ”
Those who register after the close of regular registration — 5 p. m. today — must do so in person at the county election office. Late registrants are issued an absentee ballot.
All absentee ballots must be returned to the county election office, by 8 p. m. on Election Day, Nov. 6, to be counted. People who plan to mail their ballots in are advised to mail them early — the Friday before election or earlier would be safest — to ensure they hit their clerk and recorder’s office by the deadline.
Dahl said late registration begins Wednesday and runs through Monday, Nov. 5, at noon. It begins again on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 7 a. m. through 8 p. m.
She said her office also is seeking election judges, a paid position for which the clerk and recorder provides training before the election.
“All election judges must be registered to vote, must attend our training, must be able to commit to working 6:30 a. m. to 9 p. m. on Election Day and cannot be related to a candidate on the ballot, ” Dahl said. “I encourage businesses in the county to consider sparing an employee for a day to be an election judge.
“Judges are becoming harder and harder to find since more and more people are working, ” she added.
Dahl said people interested in being an election judge, but who are not currently on the list, can call her office at 265-5481, ext. 221.
McCulloch said voters also are encouraged to check their registration status at the Secretary of State website using “My Voter Page, ” which can be accessed online and in the Apple and Droid App markets. That page also has precinct-specific sample ballots, maps to polling place locations and an absentee ballot tracking service. Printable voter registration cards and absentee ballot applications can be found online at http://sos.mt.gov/Elections.