Election

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Gallatin County has issued over 67,200 ballots, with more than 14,400 returned so far, according to election manager Casey Hayes.

The first week of ballot returns was slow, but returns picked up this week, with the county receiving on Monday the most mail it ever has in a single day, Hayes said.

It is difficult to guess the turnout for the election because primary elections typically occur in-person and because Gallatin County has a large transient population due to Montana State University, Hayes said.

So far, 4,500 ballots have been returned to the county as undeliverable.

Statewide, about 600,000 ballots were mailed to voters and about 173,000 have been returned, according to the secretary of state’s website. Past statewide primaries have had a turnout of nearly 300,000.

In late March, Gov. Steve Bullock allowed counties to conduct mail-ballot elections, and over the following weeks, all counties chose to do so.

Ballots for Montana’s first statewide primary election were mailed two weeks ago and must be returned by 8 p.m. June 2. The postal service recommends mailing them by Tuesday.

Voters who have not received a ballot should call the election department. Voters can also check their registration status on the “My Voter Page” of the secretary of state’s website or by calling the election department.

To limit in-person contact, the county is accepting registration forms via email. The forms must be printed, signed and scanned or photographed. Electronic signatures aren’t accepted.

Voters may drop off or complete their ballots at the election department on West Main Street from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. To maintain social distancing, only five voters are allowed in the office at a time.

The county will also collect ballots on June 2 in the parking lots of the usual polling places.

On Tuesday, Yellowstone County District Judge Jessica Fehr issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of a law that limits the number of absentee ballots a person can collect and requires collectors to complete a form, which was mailed with ballots, listing the ballots they returned.

The judge will hold a hearing next Friday on whether to permanently block the law.

For now, state and local officials aren’t enforcing the law, according to a press release from commissioner of political practices Jeff Mangan.

In March, Western Native Voice, Montana Native Voice and several tribal nations filed the lawsuit against Mangan, Attorney General Tim Fox and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, arguing the law violated the rights of those living on reservations.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.