After a decision by the Missoula County Attorney's office, no one will know how many voters wrote Lyn Hellegaard's name as a write-in candidate for Mayor of Missoula. The problem for many voters is that this news came out after they have already sent in their ballots and they may not be able to recast their vote.

"What will happen on Election Day is the M-650, those are our calculators, will count the ovals that are darkened for write-in candidates," said Missoula County Clerk and Recorder Vickie Zeier. "We will not take those to, what we call a writing board, and determine how many of those were for Lynn Hellegaard, how many were for Jane Doe, etc."

Some write-in candidates can win an election, but for this particular race, they needed to file to run as a write-in candidate before the October 10 deadline. Hellegaard did not file paperwork to run in time. She says her run was championed by a grass-roots movement and not her own idea. She says that the news about her write-in run was spread by the Missoulian newspaper and that she did not send in any information about a campaign.

Because this election will only be done via absentee ballots, many voters will have no opportunity to change their vote even though the decision on Hellegaard was published long after ballots were sent out.

"If you haven't returned your ballot, or you just mailed it today, or yesterday, we can pull those ballots, and you can come in and pick them and remark the ballots, and get a new ballot. But for those that have been processed and accepted, there is no retrieving them."

Zeier says nearly 2,000 votes a day are pouring into the elections office and that procedural rules require her office to accept the ballots when they come in by taking them out of their named envelopes. This process makes it impossible to go back and search for ballots for those that would like to change their votes.

Voters that notify the elections office that they would like a new ballot can get one, as long as they call before the ballot they want voided is opened.

Vickie Zeier: