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Our View: State should follow Havre's example in mail-in ballots


September 12, 2013

There was not a whole lot of reason to vote in the recent Democratic and Republican Havre municipal primaries.

In fact, there’s a good argument that the state law that mandates elections when there are no contests is a bit archaic — to say nothing of costly.

Democratic voters could vote for Tim Solomon for mayor or not vote. Republicans had the choice between Bob Rice and not voting.

Despite the meaninglessness of it all, 41 percent of registered voters took the time to vote. Why?

Hopefully, one of the reasons is that it is ingrained in Montana residents that they have a civic responsibility to cast ballots in all elections. Traditionally, voter turnout has been higher in Montana than other states.

But there is another reason for the high turnout. Montana and Havre officials have made it easier for people to cast ballots municipal elections.

They get a ballot in the mail, fill it out and mail it back.

In every city election since mail-in ballots have taken effect, turnout has been much higher than normal.

This raises the question: Why aren’t mail-in ballots used for state elections?

Montana Republicans seem to have the outlandish feeling that if they require voters to walk on nails to get their ballots, Republicans will show up and Democrats will be scared away. But if they make it easy to vote, Democrats will turn out in large numbers and trounce the GOP at the polls.

The Havre results seem to prove that thesis untrue. In a city where Democrats dominate, it appears that a very healthy number of Republicans returned ballots.

High voter turnout helps not one party or the other, it helps everyone.

It’s time that the mail-in ballot successes in municipal elections be transferred to the state level.


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