Drop-off traffic steadily picked up Tuesday morning at the Missoula County Fairgrounds for the Missoula municipal election.
By 10 a.m., the elections office had received 32.5% of the 45,000 ballots mailed to registered voters, said Missoula County elections supervisor Dana Causby, who is hoping for a 40 percent turnout.
“Workers are frantically working back there to accept ballots. People need to know they can go to any drop-off location,” said Causby.
Drop-off locations exist in each of the six wards. They are:
- Missoula County Fairgrounds
- Lewis and Clark Elementary School
- Rattlesnake Elementary School
- Hellgate Elementary School
- Franklin Elementary School
- DeSmet School
- Jeannette Rankin Elementary School
- Missoula Senior Citizen Center
As Missoula’s morning fog gradually lifted, Vance Bennett, one of four election officials working the ballot drop-off, said traffic was steady and picking up steam as voters swung by on their way to work or while running errands.
All ballots must be delivered by 8 p.m. Tuesday to be counted.
Causby reminded voters who return another’s ballot to fill out the enclosed purple form sent with every ballot.
At the fairgrounds outdoor drop-off, election officials Susan Mace, John Fletcher, Todd Onken and Bennett ensured that mail-in ballots were signed, deposited properly in the ballot box and that each voter received a coveted “I Voted” sticker.
A handful of voters in the neighborhood walked up to the booth to hand in their ballots.
Tuesday’s election will find Missoula voters selecting six of the 12 members of the Missoula City Council, one in each ward.
Three seats are being defended by incumbents, including Heidi West in Ward 1, Mirtha Becerra in Ward 2 and Gwen Jones in Ward 3. They’re being challenged by Amber Shaffer in Ward 1, Brent Sperry in Ward 2, and Drew Iverson in Ward 3.
The other three city wards include all newcomers, with Amber Sherrill and Allen Ault competing in Ward 4; Alex Fregerio and John Contos in Ward 5; and Nick Shontz and Sandra Vasecka in Ward 6.
Of the 45,049 ballots issued for the city election, 48 have been rejected, 391 voided and 4,827 were undeliverable, according to the elections office.
“Ballots are not forwardable, by law, across the country,” said Causby. “If you moved and you didn’t update your address, your ballot will come back to our office. We do call everyone and make sure they know.”
This year’s election has been more contentious than in years past. It has attracted the spending of a new partisan political action committee created to place conservative candidates on the City Council.
The non-partisan Montana Conservation Voters also has backed a selection of left-leaning candidates based on their support for public lands and open space.
Voters across Missoula will have the final say on Tuesday night. Watch MissoulaCurrent.com throughout the evening Tuesday for the latest and most complete election returns and reactions.