Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The number of candidates running to become the city's mayor has triggered a primary race, and at least one race for City Council could do the same.

Members of the City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to hold a mail-in election for both the primary in September and the General Election in November.

Five candidates have filed to run as mayor including Jordan Hess, Mike Nugent, Andrea Davis, Shawn Knopp and Brandi Atanasoff. The primary in September will narrow the field to two, but elections aren't cheap.

Claire Trimble, a senior deputy clerk with the city, said current estimates suggest the September primary will cost $136,000 for a mail-ballot election and $161,000 if staffed polling places are added.

The general election is slightly more at $149,000 for a mail-ballot and $175,000 to add polling places.

“Mail does have a higher turnout rate and has a higher participation rate, historically,” Trimble said.

While some lobbied to include polling places to both elections, the additional cost was deemed unnecessary by others given that mail-ballot elections generally have higher turnout rates.

“I'm very comfortable with a mail-in ballot,” said council member Gwen Jones.

Of the city's six wards, two had more than two candidates on file by deadline including Ward 3 and Ward 5. However, one candidate in Ward 3 has dropped out of the race and one in Ward 5 needs to submit additional paperwork to remain a candidate.

If the candidate does file the paper, Ward 5 will appear on the primary ballot but if the candidate doesn't file the paper, Ward 5 won't have a primary, nor will any other city ward.

“Typically, when there are only two members, you don't have a primary, you just put the two names forward in the general election,” Trimble said. “The primary in that race in Ward 5 is contingent upon (the candidate) filing the appropriate paperwork.”