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It’s the Year of Absentee Ballot Voting in Montana

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A large number of Montanans will be mailing their ballots in October, after Gov. Steve Bullock gave counties the option to switch to all-mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the state’s 56 counties have adopted the change to mail-in ballots, which they first successfully employed for the June primary. The mail-in approach helped fuel 55 percent voter turnout—the highest rate for a Montana primary since 1972.

Forty-five of Montana’s 56 counties will conduct the general election by absentee ballot (mail-in). The remaining 11 counties are conducting polling place voting. Our webpage www.aarp.org/mtvotes has all of the latest information on how Montanans can cast their vote safely this fall.

Voters should check the secretary of state’s website (sosmt .gov) to find out their county’s voting method.

If your county has adopted in-person voting, call your local election office for locations. Voters can also vote at the election office starting Friday, Oct. 2. Check with the county office for dates and hours.

 Counties will mail out ballots Oct. 9. Voters need to return them by Election Day, Nov. 3. Each county will also have a drop-off location (often the election office).

State officials and AARP urge voters to send in their ballots at least a week before the election to make sure their votes are counted. The state will cover the cost of mailing.

If you did not receive a ballot, or lost it, contact your county election office to get a new one (see list at sosmt.gov).

If you have questions, call the secretary of state’s hotline (888-884-8683).

High-profile races are boosting interest in the election. The U.S. Senate contest between incumbent Republican Steve Daines and Gov. Bullock (D) may be the biggest, generating millions of dollars in donations from inside and outside the state.

Also, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D) is battling U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) for governor.

Montana’s 50-plus voters are concerned about high prescription prices, long-term care issues, especially during the pandemic, and access to high-speed internet.

 “COVID-19 brings to light the need to do telehealth” to get seniors access to care and to connect with family members, said Mike Batista, AARP Montana’s government affairs director. “It impacts seniors and helps alleviate their isolation.”

The high percentage of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes and other care facilities should prompt a look at how they’re managed and operated to make them more safe for residents, Batista said. —Barbara Kingsley

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