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Mail-in voting


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Many important decisions on local and state issues were decided at the polls last week and more will be decided in the November elections.

There was a fairly big — but not overwhelming — turnout for the hotly contested races in Tuesday's Democratic primary. But often in primary races, the turnout is small.

Some people can complain that the public doesn't care, and people fail to take their civic responsibility seriously. The electorate, we are told, is too lazy.

Perhaps, though, people are just finding it harder and harder to get out to vote in these busy times.

Voter turnout for the Havre municipal elections last year was exceptionally high. Why?

The people at the Hill County Clerk and Recorder's office, who track such things, insist that mail-in voting increases turnout.

Cities can hold elections by mail-in ballots.

County and state governments cannot.

It's time to change that.

Montana's success rate at mail-in ballots proves that it is popular with the public. It's time it was extended to all elections.

Opponents say that there is something uniquely American about the idea of coming together on Election Day to cast ballots. Like a New England town meeting, there is a democratic feel to going to the local fire station or community center to vote.

However, voters overwhelmingly like the idea of being able to look at their ballot ahead of time, review the candidates and issues and take their time at deciding for whom to vote.

Some states are worried about voting irregularities, and election officials should always keep their eyes open to prevent ballot-box stuffing.

But Montana has a reputation for squeaky-clean elections. We suspect that will continue.

Times are changing. Some day, officials may find a way to have fool-proof Internet-based elections.

In the meantime, mail-in ballots seem like a way to extend public participation in the election process.

The state Legislature ought to extend mail-in ballots to county and state elections.


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