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Everything you need to know to vote in the primary election

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MONTANA – Montana’s primary election is on June 2. The general election will be held November 3.

What offices are up for election on the 2020 ballot? Montana’s 2020 ballot will include candidates for U.S. president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, superintendent of public instruction, two state Supreme Court seats, eight District Court seats, and three seats on the utility-regulating Public Service Commission.

Candidates for all 100 Montana House seats and 25 of the state’s 50 Senate seats will also appear on the ballot, as well as any ballot measures that qualify. Signature gatherers will be working to qualify those petitions through mid-June, so be sure to check the Montana secretary of state’s ballot measure information page for more information.

The Montana Senate districts on the 2020 ballot are: Districts 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, 31, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 45, 46, and 47.

This year’s primary election is a little different from the last one because of the coronavirus pandemic (more on that later). In short, there will be no in-person primary voting, since polling places will be closed. It’s unclear for now how the pandemic may impact the general election.

If you’re already registered to vote, absentee or otherwise, your primary ballot was mailed to you on May 8. Simply fill it out and mail it back in (return postage will be included), or drop it off at your county’s drop-off location. 

Do I need to be registered to vote? Yes. First, check the Montana secretary of state’s My Voter Page to make sure you aren’t registered already. If you aren’t, you can stop by your county election office anytime during regular business hours to pick up an application (some election offices are open by appointment only). After you’ve filled it out, you’ll need to get it back to your county election office, either in person or via mail, and you’ll have to provide a valid ID or the last four digits of your Social Security number

Can I register to vote on Election Day? Yes. Late registration is available in Montana from May 27 until noon on June 1 at your county election office or local election headquarters. Same-day registration is available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, June 2.

How do I know my registration information is accurate and current? Go to the Montana secretary of state’s My Voter Page and enter your first name, last name and date of birth. The page will list your voter status, legislative House and Senate districts and the location of your polling place. There’s even a map with directions. 

But wait, isn’t there a pandemic going on? How is that affecting the primary? Can I still go to the polls, or what? You’re right, things have changed, and you won’t be able to vote at the polls, at least not in the primary election. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Montana has taken measures to conduct the June 2 primary in as safe and socially distanced a manner as possible. All 56 counties have switched to an all-mail election for the primary, which means if you’re already registered to vote — absentee or otherwise — your ballot will be mailed to you on May 8. Return postage will be included, but be sure to check the My Voter Page well before May 8 to ensure your address is current and correct. If it’s not, follow the link provided on the My Voter Page to contact your county election official and fix it.


If you’re not registered to vote, you won’t receive a ballot in the mail, so get that done ASAP. You can also drop off your voter registration application and/or your ballot at specific locations in your county. The secretary of state’s website now has a searchable database of those locations. You can find that info under the heading “These are the changes to the way you vote in this primary due to the governor’s directive.” Those addresses are also listed below. Locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 1 unless otherwise noted. Main drop-off locations will all operate from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 2.

Can’t we just keep the polling places open? The spread of coronavirus is serious business. That’s why the governor gave counties the option to conduct the primary entirely by mail, and it’s why all 56 Montana counties opted to do so. Polls would be prime locations for disease transmission, what with people coming in and out all day, breathing the same air and touching the same booths and tables and pens. Closing the polls isn’t just a safety precaution for you, the voter. It takes a lot of volunteer election judges to staff polling locations, and the majority of those volunteers tend to be retirees, who are among the most susceptible to this disease.

Ugh, I’ve already read so much about the coronavirus. Can you just bottom-line this for me?

Sure. It’s simple. Voting is important, and so is keeping yourself and everyone else healthy and safe. Given the current public health situation, the simplest way to accomplish both those things is to make sure you’re registered with your correct address, and that your ballot is received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Can’t I just vote online? Sorry, but that’s not an option in Montana.

Are there any situations in which I’m not eligible to vote? According to state law, you can’t vote if you’ll be under 18 on Election Day, are not a U.S. citizen, or have lived in Montana less than 30 days. Convicted felons currently incarcerated in a penal facility are also not eligible to vote, nor are persons whom a judge has ruled to be of unsound mind. Otherwise, you’re good to go.

I have a friend or family member who isn’t able to drop off his or her ballot. Can I do it for them? Montana voters approved a ballot measure in 2018 addressing this very question. It’s called the Ballot Interference Prevention Act, and there’s a ton of information about it on the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices website. Basically, you’ll need to download and fill out a BIPA ballot collection registry form before you collect any ballots you plan to deliver, and you can only collect and deliver six ballots max per election.

Election officials will need to collect your information as well as the information of the voters you’re delivering ballots for, and your relationship to those voters has to fall into one (or more) of these categories: acquaintance, caregiver, family member or household member. There are some pretty stiff penalties for violating BIPA, so make sure you’ve got all the paperwork squared away before you even touch another person’s ballot. And be sure to practice safe social distancing if you do.

Who should I call if I have a problem on Election Day, or if I see something goes wrong?

County election officials will probably be in the best position to help. You can also call the Montana secretary of state’s office at 406-444-9608.

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