I remember the first time I voted an official ballot. It was 1973, just two years after 18-year-olds were granted the right to vote. I remember walking into the voting booth and closing the curtain behind me. As I started to mark my ballot, I realized how important it was to never miss an election.
I was a senior in high school, and I was voting in a local election. It was a huge responsibility, as local elections directly impact our daily lives. They affect our living and working conditions, schools, and neighborhoods. They affect our air and water quality, transportation and health. Local elections are the elections that hit closest to home.
Montana’s municipal general election will be held on Nov. 5. As part of National Voter Registration Month, I encourage you to take the time to register to vote or check the status of your existing voter registration to ensure your information is accurate. You can get started using “My Voter Page”, which is available on our website, the Apple Store and Android Market.
Most counties will be holding their November elections by mail ballot, which means county election administrators will be relying on accurate records to get ballots into voters’ hands. And time is running out. Ballots are mailed to qualified active electors 15-25 days before Election Day.
Only voters on the active voter registration List are mailed ballots. Being a registered voter does not necessarily mean you’re an active elector. If you did not vote in a federal general election and did not respond to two confirmation mailings sent to you by the county election office, you have likely been placed on the Inactive Voter Registration List. If a mail ballot that was sent to you was returned as “undeliverable” sometime in the past, and you did not respond to a subsequent confirmation mailing and have not voted since that time, you’re likely on the Inactive list.
The good news is that it’s easy to reactivate your voter registration. All you have to do is notify your county election office in writing that your voter registration information is current, or fill out and return a new voter registration card or application for absentee ballot.
Every Montanan has the right and responsibility to vote in every election in which they are eligible. Take action this month by registering to vote or checking the status of your existing voter registration so that you can participate in the Municipal General Election on Nov. 5. Get out there and vote.
(Linda McCulloch is Montana secretary of state.)