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September City Council primary election will take place at polling places

All ballots from September’s City Council primary will be counted at the Missoula County Elections Center at the fairgrounds. (File photo)

Missoula’s Sept. 10 City Council primary election will be conducted at polling places, rather than via mail as originally planned.

That’s because a mistake by the Missoula County Elections Office delayed submission of paperwork to the state, forcing the polling place election, elections administrator Dayna Causby announced.

Causby said it will cost between $8,000 and $10,000 to hold the polling place election for the primary, and the added expense has been factored into her office’s fiscal year 2020 budget.

Three polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in each ward participating in the primary:

  • Ward 1: Rattlesnake Elementary, 1220 Pineview Drive
  • Ward 3: Missoula Senior Center, 705 S. Higgins Ave.
  • Ward 4: Lewis and Clark Elementary, 2901 Park St.

A primary is only being held in the three wards where three candidates are competing for one open position on the City Council. The primary vote will narrow that field to two candidates per ward. The city’s other three wards have two candidates each vying for the council seat.

November’s general election ballot will feature all six City Council races. That vote will be conducted entirely by mail-in ballot.

For September’s primary, Causby said registered voters already on the absentee mail ballot list will automatically be mailed a ballot starting Friday, Aug. 16. The Missoula County Elections Office will mail fliers Aug. 16 to voters in affected precincts who have not opted to vote by mail.

“All voters in Wards 1, 3 and 4 will receive some form of communication from our office, which is different from what happens with an all-mail election, where only active voters are contacted,” Causby said.

The fliers will include maps of the designated polling places, as well as a pre-filled, postage-paid form allowing voters to sign up to have their ballots mailed to them if voting at the designed polling place is not convenient.

Voters will simply need to sign and mail back the form by Tuesday, Sept. 3, to receive a ballot in the mail. After that date, voters will need to request an absentee ballot in person at the Elections Office.

Though the Elections Office had planned to hold a mail-only election, the timing of the polling place election will allow workers to try out new processes ahead of the 2020 federal primary, according to Causby.

“The polling place election will also allow us to test a few proposed improvements to our website for our local district elections,” she said. “In addition, we’ll count all of the ballots from this primary at the fairgrounds instead of using tabulators at the polling places.”

Starting Monday, Aug. 12, the Elections Office will be located in Building 15 of the Missoula County Fairgrounds, 1101 South Ave. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

With renovation construction continuing at the fairgrounds, the Elections Office urges voters to take care of any election-related needs as soon as possible to alleviate crowding at the facility in the days leading up to the primary.