MISSOULA, MT — A statewide race for a seat in the US Congress is flooding the airwaves, and Montanan’s mailboxes – electronic and US mail, with election messages and appeals, and election officials say absentee balloting has been brisk in the days before the actual election on Thursday, May 25th.
Greg Gianforte, a Republican tech billionaire who jumped back into the election fray months after a failed attempt to win the governor’s office in November, is facing a political newcomer in Rob Quist. Quist, a Cutbank Democrat and popular singer, said he was encouraged to run by former Governor Brian Schweitzer. The latest polling shows Gianforte ahead by about a point.
Both candidates have brought political star power to the state to try and sway voters. Quist hosted Senator Bernie Sanders over the week-end. Donald Trump, Jr., made two visits and VP President Mike Pence made one to remind voters that Gianforte, if elected, would support the Trump agenda in Washington, DC.
Election offices say absentee ballots are coming in briskly — Yellowstone, Gallatin and Lewis and Clark counties have reported return rates of over 60%. Missoula county has seen about 58% of absentee ballots returned already, according to election chief, Rebecca Connors. Connors says that’s typical — Missoula voters seem to like to vote on election day. But Connors says Missoula will provide absentee ballot assistance, replace ballots, offer late registration, provide an ADA accessible AutoMark voting machine, and allow for voters to drop off their ballot at a 24/7 drive-thru location. She hopes voters will utilize those services at the election offices Missoula County Fairgrounds location prior to voting day. On Thursday, registered voters who did not request an absentee ballot have to vote at their regular polling place. Those who are not registered can still go to the Fairgrounds through Wednesday at noon and on Thursday from 7am-8pm.