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Mail-in ballots for 2020 General Election to be sent out Oct. 9

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LAKE COUNTY – It may seem early to start preparing for the Nov. 3rd General Election, but in Lake County voters can start checking the boxes as early as Oct. 2 at 8 a.m.

The process is being done by mail this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to concerns about spreading the virus and keeping polling places continuously sanitized, the county didn’t have enough people to work the election.

“We usually have 104 people working an election, but this year, we had 65 people willing to do it,” said Lake County Election Official Katie Harding.

Harding said many of the people who usually sign up to work elections are older adults who are now in the high-risk category for complications with COVID-19. “We also have some of the judges with family members at risk, and people didn’t want to bring the virus home to them. There are a lot of people who usually work elections who have spouses with dialysis or chemotherapy.”

The 2020 election requires more workers to ensure compliance with the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. “We need three to four more people at each polling place for sanitation, to limit the people at the door, and to keep people six feet apart in the line,” she said.

Election officials decided a mail-in election would solve the issues, although casting a ballot by mail has a few issues that can be remedied if voters make sure to send in ballots early. 

She said people can pick up a mail-in ballot as early as Oct. 2 from the Lake County Election Office. Voters can either vote the ballot in a poll booth at the election office or take their ballot home to vote and mail back or drop it off in-person before 8 p.m. on Election Day.

“Due to social distancing and spacing requirements, we do ask voters to expect a wait time at the office,” she said.

On Oct. 9, the ballots will be mailed to active, registered voters and provisional voters in the county. Regular registration closes on Oct. 26, but late registration begins on Oct. 27. 

“Individuals wishing to register to vote or update their information for this election must appear in-person at the Lake County Election Office,” she said.

Election Day is on Tuesday, Nov. 3 and ballots “must be in” to the election office by 8 p.m. to be accepted. Harding said people are often confused by this date. She said people think that they can put the ballot in the mail and have it postmarked by election day and still be counted, which is incorrect. Ballots need to be at the election office on Nov. 3. If they are postmarked on that date, the post office will not have enough time to deliver them to the election office before the deadline. 

The ballots include prepaid postage so a stamp is not required. “We are trying to make it as easy as possible,” Harding said. The State of Montana developed a website and phone system so that people can call and check on the status of their ballot and their voter status. To access these tools, log onto: or call 406-883-7268. Voters can also use the website or phone number to find out where their ballot was mailed to and if the election office received it.

“If someone is not comfortable with the mail-in ballot, they can drop it off at the election office,” Harding said.

Those who vote by mail can track their ballot, find out if it was received, and if it wasn't, work with election officials to get a new ballot.

“We can look to see if the ballot was sent out, where it was sent, the date it was received, and we can check to see if it was accepted or rejected,” Harding said. 

For those who aren't registered: “The best way for individuals to register to vote or update their information is to either download a voter registration application from the Secretary of State’s website at or the county’s website Individuals may also appear in-person at the election office or call 406-883-7268 to have an application mailed or emailed to them.”

Voters will be checking boxes for a number of candidates during the General Election. The presidential race is on the ballot for Republican candidate Donald J. Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. 

The governor’s race includes Republican Greg Gianforte; Democrat Mike Cooney; Libertarian Lyman Bishop.

For United States Senate, the candidates are Steve Daines (R) and Steve Bullock (D). In the United States House of Representatives, the race is between Matt Rosendale (R) and Kathleen Williams (D).

Montana Attorney General candidates are Austin Knudsen (R) and Raph Graybill (D). For Secretary of State, the candidates are Christi Jacobsen (R) and Bryce Bennett (D). The Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates are Elsie Arntzen (R) and Melissa Romano (D) and Kevin Leatherbarrow (L). 

For State Auditor, candidates include Troy Downing (R), Shane Morigeau (D) and Roger Roots (L). 

The District 20 Court Judge candidate is James Manley. For Senate District 6 in the Polson area, Greg Hertz is the candidate. In Senate District 47 in the Polson area, Devin Braaten (L), Chase Porter Gay (D) and Dan Salomon (R) are running. 

For House District 12 in the Polson area, Gerry Browing (D) is a candidate with Linda Reksten (R).

In House District 15, Marvin R. Weatherwax, Jr. (D) is running against Nick White (D).

For House District 93 in the St. Ignatius area, Lisa Pavlock (D) and Joe Read (R) are on the ballot. 

Election dates to 


Oct. 2, voters can request a ballot at the Lake County Election Office.

Oct. 9, ballots will be mailed to active, registered voters in Lake County. 

Oct. 26, regular voting registration closes.

Oct. 27, late registration begins.

Nov. 3, Election Day. Ballots must be in the Election Office by 8 p.m. Ballots postmarked on this day but received after Nov. 3 are not accepted.  


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