Teton County Election Administrator Paula Jaconetty on Monday said voters are continuing to register for next week’s general election on Nov. 3, and her staff has been busy making sure these new voters receive their ballots for the mail election.
She and her staff mailed general election ballots on Oct. 9 to about 3,743 active registered voters in the county. As of Oct. 26, however, she said her office has mailed out about 226 more ballots to newly registered voters. She said the county is not in danger of running out of printed ballots as she ordered 25% more in each of the county’s five districts.
She said her office now has issued 3,975 mail ballots, of which 2,430 have been returned to her office and accepted.
She has voided 81 of those ballots, usually because the voter has moved to another county, or the voter has changed his or her mind, and wants a new ballot to mark. She has reissued 50 ballots, and there have been 98 returned as undeliverable.
The county as of Oct. 26 has 4,120 registered voters, including both active and inactive. That compares to 3,998 registered voters as of Sept. 24.
Earlier this year, the Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders and Election Administrators asked Gov. Steve Bullock to give counties the power to choose whether to hold a poll election or a mail ballot election for the Nov. 3 general election.
Jaconetty requested the Teton County commissioners to approve holding the general election here by mail ballot, and the commissioners unanimously approved doing so. County residents can, however, vote on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the county courthouse in Choteau if they wish to. In the hallway on the main floor of the courthouse she will have at least two sitting voter booths, two standing voter booths, and one or two Expressvote machines designed to assist people with visual or auditory disabilities as they vote, but available for any voter to use.
Just inside the courthouse back door, she will have an election judge staffing a ballot drop box where voters can drop off their voted ballot in its green, signed, return envelope. That drop box will also be available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day.
In Fairfield, she will have election judges staffing another ballot drop box at the Fairfield Community Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day.
Jaconetty said, however, that the two drop box locations are only for returning voted ballots. If county residents need to register on election day, they have to come to the courthouse in Choteau to do that and be able to cast a ballot. The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election was Oct. 26. After that, however, the state offers late registration, starting at 8 a.m. on Oct. 27 through to 8 p.m. on the day of the election. People who wish to register late need to come in person to Jaconetty’s office on the main floor of the courthouse.
She said that 80% of Teton County active registered voters usually vote by absentee ballot and are familiar with the procedures. This year, to vote the mail ballot, instructions for voters are fairly simple:
•Open the ballot envelope and take out four items: a blue instructions sheet, a two-sided ballot, a yellow secrecy envelope, a green return envelope (already bearing a postage stamp).
•Next, read the instructions, then mark ballot (on both sides) by filling in the ovals next to the name of the voter’s preferred candidates, using a black pen.
•Put the marked ballot into the yellow secrecy envelope and seal it.
•Put the yellow secrecy envelope, with the ballot inside, into the green return envelope, and seal the green envelope.
•On the back of the green envelope, complete the affirmation statement, swearing that the ballot was addressed to you and you filled it out. Sign the affirmation statement.
•Finally, return the ballot to the Teton County election administrator by: mailing the ballot in at least a week before the election or by dropping the ballot off at the Teton County Courthouse by 8 p.m. on election day; by dropping the ballot off at the Fairfield Community Hall on the day of the election, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
As the ballots come into her office, Jaconetty said, her staff checks each green outer envelope to make sure the voter has signed and that the signature matches his or her voter registration card or drivers license signature. Once the match has been made, the staff opens the green envelope and takes out the yellow secrecy envelope. This envelope is then placed in a ballot box to be counted on election day.
On election day, Jaconetty said, her eight-member board of trained election judges will receive the ballot boxes and begin removing the envelopes, opening the ballots and counting them by precinct. The judges will start opening and counting ballots, using electric counting machines, at 9 a.m. on election day.
After the polls close, Jaconetty will issue unofficial tallies for all the of the county and state races for each of the precincts. She will have a results form with running totals available at the courthouse and will also input the unofficial results into the Secretary of State’s election results website.
Voters who have any question about whether their ballot has been received after they mailed it in or dropped it off, can go online to the Secretary of State’s website (sosmt.gov) and select the Election and Voter Services option, then select the “My Voter Page” option. That page will show voters whether their ballot has been sent to them and then whether it has been returned to Jaconetty’s office and accepted.
If the ballot hasn’t been shown as sent, voters should call Jaconetty at 466-2693.
Voters can also get to the Secretary of State’s My Voter page by clicking the link on Jaconetty’s page by going to tetoncomt.org, clicking on “Clerk & Recorder/Elections” and then scrolling down to the paragraph on elections and clicking on the “My Voter Page” link.