Election countdown: Voter participation increasing as ballots trickle in

Elections headquarters at the Missoula County Fairgrounds saw a steady stream of traffic on Tuesday morning. Polls close at 8 p.m. tonight. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The Missoula County Elections Office had received 22,000 mail-in ballots by late Monday night, or nearly 49 percent of all ballots issued by mail, election officials said Tuesday morning.

And traffic was steady at the ballot drop-off location at the Missoula County Fairgrounds on Election Day, while polling places scattered across the county saw their share of voters, lifting hopes that participation will be strong.

“We were at 49 percent as of late last night,” said county elections administrator Dayna Causby. “We’ll definitely reach 50 percent today.”

Total voter participation in the 2014 Primary Election in Missoula County dipped to roughly 26 percent, though election officials are anticipating a higher turnout this year.

That will depend on the traffic generated at the county’s polling places and late voter registration.

“We don’t know what our polling turnout is until the end of the night, but we’re expecting more than a 50 percent turnout,” said Causby.

With nearly half of all mailed ballots returned, Causby expects to get early results tallied by 8:10 p.m. tonight, or shortly after polls close.

Those early results could indicate the direction of several local contests, including the winner of the Democratic primary races for Missoula County commissioner and sheriff.

Statewide races, including the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate and Democratic candidate for the U.S. House will likely be determined later in the evening.

“We’ll probably have a large majority of our ballots tallied by 8:10 p.m.,” said Causby. “We don’t know what the Election Day turnout will look like until then.”

The Missoula Current will have complete election coverage later tonight.