BILLINGS — Across Montana, 500,000 absentee ballots have been sent to voters and nearly 20% have been turned back in. The number is slightly higher in Yellowstone County, where 25% of absentee ballots have been returned, according to election officials.
Those absentees include a ballot from Erica McCornack, a sophomore at MSU Billings.
“Generally, the worst thing you could do is not vote because that shows apathy, and it’s better to vote than to not vote because at least you’re participating in a system and you’re providing your input and that’s what matters," McCornack said.
McCornack, a history major, follows politics and elections closely and voting early is her chance to weigh in on the political conversation.
“I’m honestly very passionate about voting and being involved in local politics. Generally the more involved you are, the more you know about what’s going on, and I feel like the more informed you are about politics," McCornack said.
The Montana Secretary of State’s website shows statewide, about 760,000 Montanans are registered to vote and almost two-thirds of voters are registered to vote absentee, receiving their ballot in the mail.
Out of 493,000 absentee ballots sent out, 97,000 ballots have been returned.
The last midterm election, in 2018, Montana saw a high voter turnout of 71%--a huge jump from midterm elections in the past, where only about 55% of registered voters cast ballots.
Every election cycle, Montanans look to MSUB for its annual Mountain States Poll, which started in 1989. The results of the 35th Mountain States Poll will be released this Wednesday.
MSUB Political Science Instructor, Dr. Hope Dewell Gentry, says polling shows Montana could see a high voter turnout this midterm election.
“To give a little hint into the Mountain States Poll, we have a lot of people who are saying that they are going to turn out," Gentry said. "I’m very curious if that very high ratio that we ended up having on the Mountain States Poll— and I won’t mention what it is at the moment until the official reveal— but if they are truly going to make sure they take the time to get to the poll, it should be a fairly high turnout.”
For McCornack, a few things catching her attention on the ballot this November are the races for Montana Supreme Court justices.
“Montana has a lot of unique Supreme Court cases and I know a lot of stuff is going on with the Supreme Court in general and it’s going to be important to be able to pick your people you want judicially and legislatively," McCornack said.
A recent court ruling from Yellowstone County Judge Michael Moses restored same-day voter registration in Montana, so Montanans can register to vote up until the time polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.
But McCornack urges people, especially young voters, to turn in their ballots early.
“It’s easier to vote early than to not vote at all because at least you can say ‘I voted’ even if you voted early," McCornack said.