Flathead County has decided to operate in-person polling instead of a mail-ballot format for the general election this November, although election officials are encouraging the public to request and use absentee ballots.
Flathead County commissioners decided against adding a discussion on the commissioner meeting agenda over whether or not to use an all-mail system for the upcoming election after meeting individually with Election Administrator Debbie Pierson.
Local election officials had said last week they were discussing the possibility of an all-mail election in an effort to protect the health and safety of voters and poll workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioners chose to use an all-mail system for the primary election.
“We did it in June, and at that time, we told the community that we’d only do it once,” Commissioner Pam Holmquist said.
Commissioner Phil Mitchell also emphasized the primary’s all-mail system would be a one-time situation.
“We let it go as a mail-in ballot because we didn’t really know what was going on with COVID,” he said.
Commissioner Randy Brodehl said commissioners want to give residents an opportunity to “live as normal of a life as they can” during the pandemic, and he assured the public the county will follow state safety guidelines.
“Personally, I believe we are committed to doing this within the parameters provided by our public health officer, and we have been working very closely with their office and the elections office to make sure this could be done,” Brodehl said.
Election Office Manager Monica Eisenzimer said the county will follow CDC guidelines and governor mandates this November, including sanitizing, line spacing, social distancing and a mask mandate if it is still required.
Eisenzimer said a new list of polling places will be released and the office is receiving election judge applications. It’s not anticipated that recruiting judges will be an issue due to the pandemic.
“We are stressing that absentee ballots are available and requests are encouraged during this pandemic,” Eisenzimer said.
Lake County commissioners passed a resolution on Aug. 19 for an all-mail ballot election.