Elections Coming to Close for Some in Montana

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – For some voters the contentious election season will soon be coming to an end as early voting opens Tuesday for those registered absentee.

Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said absentee voting is becoming increasingly popular.

About 43 percent of voters sent in absentee ballots in the last presidential election, a figure that climbed to 47 percent in 2010. McCulloch says as many as 60 percent could vote absentee this election.

The state’s top election official says a big election year has brought a lot of independent efforts to register voters and have voters request absentee ballots.

Montana voters face a crowded ballot in a presidential election year.

Airwaves have been dominated by advertising in the contentious U.S. Senate race between incumbent Jon Tester and Congressman Denny Rehberg. Voters also choose a new congressman, governor, attorney general and make picks in three other statewide offices along with local legislative and other elections. Initiatives covering such topics as medical marijuana and abortion are also on the ballot.

Some voters who take advantage of absentee voting will be able to put the elections behind them.

McCulloch said election offices expect to send nearly 220,000 absentee ballots Tuesday, or about a third of all registered voters. More will be sent later.

McCulloch says that regular voter registration also closes Tuesday. Late registration can still be done through Election Day, usually at the county election office.

“It’s important for voters to know that they must register to vote by Tuesday in order to receive their absentee ballot in the mail, or cast a ballot at the polls,” she said. “Campaigns and other groups collecting voter registration applications must also have them turned in by Tuesday. Montanans have an expectation that if they register with a voter registration drive, their application will be submitted in time — the sooner the better.”

Her office also touts new technology to help voters.

The secretary of state Internet site allows voters to view a personalized, precinct-specific sample ballot. It also has an absentee ballot tracking service so voters can be assured their ballot has been received.

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