This week, Governor Steve Bullock issued a directive to allow Montanans to vote safely in the upcoming June 2 primary election by expanding voting opportunities.

Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman explained how the directive will allow early voting or a mail only election.

“The governor issued a directive that counties would have the opportunity to run the upcoming June election by mail if they choose to do so,” said Seaman. “It also updated for school district elections as well as a few other deadlines. What he really stressed was to what we’re trying to do is that we are minimizing contact between individuals practicing social distancing and allowing this election to take place by mail if the county chooses to do so.”

Seaman said mail-in elections are nothing new to Missoula County.

“This is really pretty common for us,” he said. “All of our school elections are run via mail, so it’s a very similar process to that, just applying to the upcoming primary election.”

Seaman said the upcoming primary would be a good chance for the Montana legislature to decide whether or not to make all future elections by mail only and eliminate the traditional polling place election.

“As we move forward, it’s a chance for the state to run a federal election by all mail,” he said. “From there the legislature and the Secretary of State and the governor can bring forward if they want to propose changes for the future. We saw this for the 2017 special federal election. Many counties did say it would be a lot cheaper if we could do an all mail ballot election for these upcoming elections, however with election laws running how we do this, it’s really for the legislature to decide whether that is something they’d want to push forward.”
As cases of COVID-19 continue to grow across the United States and in Montana, the CDC has encouraged states to use voting methods that limit direct contact. Additionally, other jurisdictions have identified traditional election procedures as posing an enhanced risk to public health and human safety. The same factors are present in Montana’s typical election procedures, and by acting now, Montana can make appropriate adjustments to hold a fair and accessible June primary election while minimizing community transmission of COVID-19.

In addition, voters will not be required to pay postage to return their ballots by mail.