A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

13 May 2017 — 0801 mdt

Montana special election voter turnout updates

How long does it take the U.S. Postal Service to carry mail ballots from Whitefish to Kalispell? In one case, at least a week, perhaps longer. Last night, a friend in Whitefish reported he had mailed his ballot on 5 May, and it still wasn’t listed in the Montana Secretary of State’s online database of accepted mail ballots. Another friend who lives ten miles east of Kalispell, near the Swan Range, also mailed his ballot on 5 May. It was received by the Flathead County Elections Department on 11 May.

Six days to travel ten miles. One-hundred-forty-four hours to travel 52,800 crow flying feet. How fast is that? It’s 1.22 inches per second. One mile per hour is 17.6 inches per second. Try walking that slowly. It’s not easy, but we know it can be done because that’s how fast the postman is carrying ballots from east of Creston to Kalispell.

Most mail ballots are entrusted to the U.S. Slowpoke Service twice. Once from the elections department to the voter, once from the voter to the elections department. Now I know why ballots are mailed out 30 days in advance of the election’s close.

And that’s why I’ll vote in person on 25 May. The elections department worker hands me my ballot directly. After mark my ballot in a privacy booth, I’ll walk, at approximately 50 inches per second, to the ballot counting machine, insert my ballot into the machine, receive the message that my ballot has been accepted, and head home knowing that neither rain nor snow nor a snail-paced letter carrier kept my ballot from being cast before the polls closed.

Almost 23 percent of Montana’s registered voters have cast their ballots already. In the 2016 Montana primary, 45.2 percent of the registered voters, and 26.7 percent of the voting eligible population, cast ballots. In the 8 June 1993 special sales tax election, the turnout of registered voters was 69.2 percent; VEP turnout was 50.6 percent.

Here are the county-by-county turnout figures through 11 May, followed by the absentee ballot return rate through the same date.

Bernie Sanders will campaign in Montana next weekend. According to Rob Quist’s campaign, Sanders will hold rallies in Missoula, Butte, and Bozeman, on Saturday, 20 May, and in Billings on Sunday, 21 May. Quist’s campaign says the events are open to all, but they want you to RSVP. There’s no charge for attending, but RSVPing surely will generate a plea for dollars, and the campaign just might check your name against a list of known Republicans.

Also, “Press credentials will be required for all media to attend.” That’s how Republican and right wing media trackers will be excluded from the rally.

Sanders is appearing late in the game for a 30-day stretch of voting, but his presence should pep up Quist’s GOTV operation, and might get the favorable attention of fence straddlers who increasingly doubt the wisdom of sending Greg Gianforte to cheer, and vote, for the Trump-Ryan bills to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

Flathead Democrats big dinner is tonight. You can buy tickets at the door — and once inside, bid on the Quist cowboy hat that’s being silently auctioned off. Sen. Jon Tester is the headline speaker.

Kalispell Women’s Event with Bonni and Halladay Quist runs from 1300 to 1430 today. Bonnie is Rob’s wife. Halladay is his daughter.