What you need to know about Election 2020 in Cascade County
When is Election Day?
Nov. 3, 2020
When will ballots be mailed?
Ballots will be mailed to active and provisionally registered voters beginning Oct. 9. Return postage is prepaid. You don’t need to add any postage to the return envelope if you return your ballot by mail.
Ballots will continue to be mailed daily as new requests are processed. Within a week of the election, county officials recommend going to the election hall in person to request a ballot or call 454-6803 or 454-6804 to resolve the issue.
Is in-person voting available?
“We hope that our voters will take advantage of the opportunity to vote through the mail and to vote early. This will reduce the number of people that need to vote in-person on Election Day, and will therefore reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to voters and election workers. Our in-person operation will be socially distanced, will require that you wear a mask and will be operated according to public health guidelines. Both your right to vote and your safety are important to us.
Voters can go into the elections office now to vote early, but elections officials are encouraging the public to wait to receive their ballot in the mail since they’ve already been sent to the processor and will be in the mail Oct. 9.
Once you receive your ballot in the mail, you may vote it at home and return it by mail, or drop it off at the office, or the election hall on Nov. 3, or bring it to the elections office and fill it out, or take it to the election hall on Election Day and fill it out then.
If you make a mistake on your ballot or it gets damaged, you may bring it to the office to get a replacement ballot.
What can I expect at the election hall on Nov. 3 in Cascade County?
“On election day we will be held to the health department guidelines and will limit the number of voters in the facility. We will also be practicing social distancing and masks will be mandatory. Anyone not willing to wear a mask into the facility will be asked to vote at a table we will have set up outside the facility. We are trying to keep everyone healthy and that includes my staff. We are anticipating that the lines could be 2-3 hours long on Election Day and the wait will be outside. We are encouraging everyone to take care of all ballot issues prior to Nov. 3 as most of the folks in our late registration line, historically, are there for re-issues,” according to Rina Moore, Cascade County election official.
When are ballots due?
“Ballots must be received into the elections office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. We will not accept post marks as the courts struck that down last week. Our instructions that are included in every ballot packet encourage the voter to place the ballot in the mail at least one week in advance to assure that it gets to us in time. Otherwise, they can drop the ballot off in person,” Moore said.
How can I check that my ballot was received and signatures accepted?
Go to My Voter Page to check the status of your mailed ballot.
When does the ballot counting process begin?
County officials will start opening and flattening ballots on Oct. 29-30 at the elections office and start counting the ballots at 9 a.m. Nov. 2 at Exhibition Hall through 4 p.m. Monday. Then they’ll start again at 9 a.m. on Election Day until they’re finished counting, Moore said.
State law changed in the last session allowing election officials to begin opening the ballots and counting them earlier than the 8 p.m. poll closure to speed the counting process, Moore said.
Ballots are moved from the election office to Exhibition Hall early in the morning Nov. 2 with a police escort.
Where is the county election office and what are their hours?
The office is at 325 2nd Ave. N. in the courthouse annex building. The office hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays in October.
On Nov. 2, ballot drop off only will be available at the election office from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ballot drop-off will be available at Exhibition Hall at Montana Expo Park from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Voter registration will be available at Exhibition Hall from 7 a.m. to noon.
On Election Day, Nov. 3, ballot drop-off, drive-by ballot drop-off and in-person voting will be available at Exhibition Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Additional places to deposit ballots that ill have auto-mark voting machines on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. are:
Wedsworth Hall, Cascade: 13 Front Street
Vaughn Volunteer Fire Station: 14 4th St.
Sun River Senior Center, Fort Shaw: 13319 MT Highway 200
Belt Senior Center: 19 Castner St.
Who gets a ballot?
ln all-mail elections, only active registered voters are sent a ballot. lnactive voters are not sent ballots in
all-mail elections. Voters become inactive due to not responding to confirmation mailings as a result of either not voting in a federal general election or a mail ballot being returned to the election office as undeliverable.
Mail ballot elections actually aid in maintaining accurate voter rolls because of the laws related to undeliverable ballots.
What’s the difference between a poll election and mail election in Montana?
ln a polling place election, absentee ballots are mailed to active and provisionally registered voters who request an absentee ballot. ln a mail ballot election, ballots are mailed to active and provisionally registered voters.
You must provide a verifiable identification number or copy of identification.
lf the number is not verified, you are provisionally registered and your ballot can only be counted if you provide verifiable identification first. ln other words, you must first register to vote with verifiable identification to have a ballot sent to you. Otherwise, the processes for issuing and receipting absentee and mail ballots are the same. Every ballot issued, and every ballot returned is tracked. The same signature verification process is used.
Who can vote in Montana?
To vote in Montana, you must:
- Be registered as required by law.
- Be 18 years old or older on or before the next election.
- Be a citizen of the United States.
- Have lived in Montana for at least 30 days.
Even if you meet the above eligibility qualifications, you cannot vote if:
- You’re a convicted felon serving a sentence in a penal institution.
- You’ve been judged in a court of law to be of unsound mind.
How can I register to vote?
- Visit your county election office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and complete a registration form.
- Fill out and sign a voter registration application and drop it off at your county election office, or mail it to the county election administrator.
- Fill out and sign a registration form when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or Montana ID.
- You must provide your Montana driver’s license number or MT identification card number when you register. If you do not have a MT driver’s license or MT ID card, you can provide the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. If you do not have a MT Driver’s License or MT ID card, or a SSN, attach a copy of photo ID that shows your name, or acceptable ID that shows your name and current address such as a paycheck stub; utility bill; bank statement; tribal ID; or government document.
- ID numbers provided on the voter registration card are kept confidential and are not available for public inspection.
- You will need to provide a residence address or specific geographic location information from which your residence address may be determined. The residence address must be in the county in which you are registering.
- Due to the Governor’s directive, the deadline for regular registration for the 2020 Federal General Election on Nov. 3, has been moved to Oct. 26. If you miss that deadline, you can still register and vote in the election by late registering at your county election office or designated location.
- Once you are registered, you will receive a voter confirmation card from the county election office that contains the precinct and polling place for your residence.
Late registration is available at any time right up through the close of polls on election day, except between noon and 5 p.m. the day before the election.
Be sure to keep your voter registration current by filling out a new form if your name or address changes. You can check to see the most current information on file at My Voter Page. If you move and become a resident of another Montana county, you must re-register in that county.
If you are a student going to college in another county you can:
- choose to vote in your county of permanent residence, either by going to the polls or by absentee ballot, OR
- register in the county where you are going to college and vote in that county.
- if you are an out-of-state student going to school in Montana, choose to become a resident of Montana if you have resided in Montana for at least 30 days, and vote in the county where you are going to school, OR
- vote in your original state, but you cannot vote in both states.
To cancel your voter registration, submit a written request to your county elections office.
Are third party mailers allowed?
From the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices: “the COPP is receiving a number of inquires on 3rd party mailers from organizations and political entities regarding voting. These mailers may include such terms as ‘Official Document’ ‘Final Notice’ ‘District Canvas’ etc. While such mailers are legal, we recommend contacting official sources such as the Montana Secretary of State, My Voter Page or your local county election office if you have concerns about your voter registration status including absentee ballots.
How is voter fraud prevented?
There are rumors that the deceased will receive ballots and someone will be able to use them fraudulently. The county elections administrator is also the clerk and recorder and the voter rolls are checked against the county’s death list. In the event that a ballot is mailed to someone who’s deceased, most often it’s returned and the voter rolls are updated, Moore said. Again, the signature on the envelope would have to match the signature on file, so it’s unlikely someone could fraudulently vote the ballot of a deceased person, Moore said.
Voter rolls are also checked biannually against the National Change of Address registry and sent confirmation mailings to ensure that ballots are sent to the correct address. All signatures on affirmation envelopes are checked against the exhibits in the voter’s records. lf the signature is forged, it will most likely be rejected as a “signature mismatch” and would not be counted, according to Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders.
Moore told The Electric in August that there have been no complaints of voter fraud or ballot tampering in Cascade County.
All ballots are barcoded and when a ballot is returned or exchanged for a new one, or lost, the county system voids the original ballot so that if someone were to try to use it, the system would not accept that ballot, Moore said.
Ballots must also be returned in an envelope that voters sign and that signature is verified by elections officials with the signature on file for that voter. If it’s not signed or the signature doesn’t match, elections staff will contact the voter to get it signed or verify that it’s their signature.
There are no universal ballots in Montana and the ballots are designed per county and include candidates for a voters individual precinct, so it may not match their friends or neighbors ballots based on precinct lines, Moore said.