Letters: Missoula County Elections Office working to accommodate voters

These are historic days in Missoula County as our community copes with the changes and challenges of COVID-19. The Missoula County Elections Office and Elections Advisory Committee are looking ahead to June 2 and a primary election unlike any election in our history.

In March, the governor’s office issued a directive giving counties the option to run the primary as an all-mail election, and county commissioners later approved a resolution to take advantage of that option.

The EAC is grateful to the commission for approving the resolution. It ensures our neighbors will be able to vote and have their vote counted while protecting voters and election workers from the spread of COVID-19.

June 2 is rapidly approaching. As our county prepares to mail out thousands of ballots, we hope voters will keep a few things in mind.

Postage paid

Ballots will go in the mail May 8, and for the first time, return postage will be paid on Missoula County primary ballots. After voters have completed their ballot, they may place it in the appropriate envelope and drop it in the mail, no stamp necessary.

In another first, ballot packets will include an “I Voted” sticker. Wearing the “I Voted” sticker is a significant part of voting, and we’re delighted that this year, the all-mail ballot won’t deprive anyone of this souvenir.

Extended deadlines

The governor’s directive extended registration deadlines, allowing voters more time to register or update their existing registration by mail. Voters who have changes – to their name or address, for example – or who are registering in Missoula County for the first time may do so by mailing a voter registration application by 5 p.m. May 26. Forms are available at www.missoulavotes.com.

After May 26, voters may still register or update an existing registration, but they must appear in person at the Elections Center (140 N. Russell St.), and social distancing guidelines will be enforced. Voters without changes and voters who typically vote by mail often ask if they have to do anything different this year, and the answer is “probably not.” To be sure, however, we encourage folks to check their registration – and, later, whether their ballot has been received and processed – at www.myvoterpagemt.com.

Same-day registration

Each election year, hundreds of Missoula County voters opt to register and vote on Election Day at the Election Center. Over the last few years, Missoula County has taken significant steps to reduce wait times and provide the very best customer service to these people.

In this extraordinary year, however, we strongly urge voters to not wait to register and vote on Election Day.

For the safety and health of voters and elections workers, social distancing protocols will limit the number of people who may be in the Elections Center at one time. And unlike prior years, voters will not wait in the Elections Center or in tents before being helped. Waiting voters will be asked to be at least 6 feet away from one another and from election workers.

Make no mistake, election workers will assist voters at the Elections Center on June 2, but they will do so in a way that minimizes risks as much as possible. We hope voters take advantage of the available opportunities to register, update existing registration and vote before June 2. Please don’t wait.

Elections Office staff are working hard to serve Missoula County voters while keeping our community safe. Voters are encouraged to check their registration status and contact the Elections Office at 406-258-4751 or electioninfo@missoulacounty.us with any questions or concerns. We all look forward to a great, safe turnout on June 2.