- General Questions
- Voter Registration
- Candidate Filing
- Voter File
- Absentee Voting
- Absent Active Duty Military and Overseas Electors
- Mail Ballot Elections
- Voting Systems
- Voting Systems Equipped for People with Disabilities
- Ballot Issues
- Election Results
- Campaigns and Campaign Finance
- Montana Voter Guide
Q.What are the dates of the federal primary and general elections?
A: A Federal primary election is held every even-numbered year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June. The 2014 federal primary election will be held on June 3, 2014. A Federal general election is held every even-numbered year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The 2014 federal general election will be held on November 4, 2014. Presidential elections are combined with the congressional, statewide, state district, and county elections.
Q. What are the dates of municipal primary and general elections?
A. A municipal primary election, if necessary, is held every odd-numbered year on the first Tuesday after the second Monday in September. A municipal general election is held every odd-numbered year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Q. Where can I find out information about school elections?
A. Visit the Office of Public Instruction website at http://opi.mt.gov/Finance&Grants/schoolfinance/Index.html#gpm1_7.
Q. What are the deadlines for the close of regular registration for the federal primary and general elections?
A. Regular registration closes 30 days before any election. Late registration begins the next day, and ends at the close of polls on election day (except from noon until 5:00 p.m. on the day before election day). Late registration can only be done at the county election administrator’s office or the location designated by the election administrator.
Q. Do I have to vote in a primary election in order to vote in the general election?
Q. Which parties are qualified for primary access in Montana? Is there party registration in Montana? Can people in a primary election vote for more than one party's candidates?
A. The list of Montana's qualified parties is available on our website at: http://sos.mt.gov/Elections/Parties.
There is no party registration in Montana. Individuals who vote in a primary election are given all the parties' ballots, and can choose in private which party ballot they wish to vote. Voters in a primary election cannot vote more than one party's ballots.
Q. How are Montana’s presidential electors chosen?
A. The applicable laws and a complete list of Montana's most recent presidential electors are available here.
Q. What ID do I have to show when I vote at the polls?
A: When voting at the polls, a current photo ID showing the elector's name; or a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, voter registration confirmation, government check or other government document showing the elector’s current name and current address must be presented.
Q. What if I forget my ID when I vote at the polls?
A. If you do not have any of the items listed above, you can still vote by requesting and filling out a “Polling Place Elector ID” form.
Or, you can vote a provisional ballot. Your provisional ballot will be counted if you provide one of the items on the list to the county election office by 5:00 p.m. the day after the election, or mail it to the county election office postmarked by the day after the election.
Q. How do I register, update my registration, find out if my registration is still on file, or find out the location of my polling place?
A. For information about registering to vote, visit http://www.sos.mt.gov/Elections/Vote. You may also contact your county election administrator to register or update your registration or visit My Voter Page to find out if you are registered to vote, where you are registered to vote, the location and directions to your polling place, the status of your absentee ballot, and to view a sample ballot.
Q. What is late registration and what are the dates that it opens and closes?
A. Late registration is an option for people who miss the regular registration deadline. It is available starting the day after the close of regular registration, up until the close of polls on election day, and must be done at the county election office (or at the location designated by the election administrator), not at a polling place.
Late registration is closed from noon to 5 p.m. on the day before the election. Although you can drop off a registration card during this time, you will not receive your ballot unless you return to the election office on Election Day.
If you wish to avoid the possibility of long lines, register by the close of regular registration or as soon as possible after the start of the late registration period.
Q. During statewide election years, when does candidate filing open? When does it close?
A. Candidate filing opens 145 days before the primary, and closes 85 days before the primary.
Q. How do I find forms and information to run as a presidential, independent, write-in or minor-party candidate?
A. Information is on the SOS webpage at http://sos.mt.gov/Elections/Filing/Information. If you are interested in running as a presidential candidate, an independent, write-in candidate or as a candidate of a party that has not qualified for the ballot in Montana, or to form a political party, you may also contact Elections and Government Services at (406) 444-5346 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. How can individuals purchase the Voter File or an available extract?
A. Contact information for questions on the Voter File is below.
- About the Service - Melissa Beggar, Montana Interactive, 449-3468, x 228.
- Technical Questions - Mark Van Alstyne, Secretary of State IT Manager, 444-4243 or email@example.com.
- General Questions - Secretary of State Elections Division, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. Does Montana have “early voting”? Does Montana have in-person absentee voting before election day? When does it start?
A. Montana does not have true early voting, but does have in-person absentee voting that allows electors, as soon as absentee ballots are available, to receive, mark and submit an absentee ballot in person at the election office or by mail to the election office. However, ballots are not counted until election day. Early-in person absentee voting does not require a reason and starts as soon as ballots are available – by not later than 30 days before an election.
Q. Who can vote absentee in Montana?
A. Since October 1,1999, anyone who wishes to vote absentee in Montana may do so, without having to specify a reason.
Q. How do I request an absentee ballot?
A. Request to be placed on the Absentee List to receive all ballots for which you are eligible by mail, or print an absentee application from the Secretary of State website, fill it out, and drop it off at the county election office or fax or mail the form to your county election office.
Q. When are the first and last days to request an absentee ballot?
A. There is no earliest day to apply for an absentee ballot. An application for absentee ballot must be received by the election office by noon the day before election day.
Q. What if I become ill and will not make it to the polls on election day?
A. If you request an absentee ballot because of a sudden illness or health emergency occurring between 5 p.m. of the Friday preceding the election and before close of polls on election day, you may ask your county election administrator to have a special absentee election board bring an absentee ballot to you.
Q. Can people request to be placed on an absentee list?
A. Yes. In addition to the Absentee List Application, the Application for Absentee Ballot includes the option to receive ballots for subsequent elections. In order to stay on the list, citizens must respond to confirmation mailings that will be sent in January of each even-numbered year.
Q. Are absentee turnout figures available? What years are available?
A. Absentee turnout from 2000 through the present is available.
Q. What are the options available to absent active duty military and overseas electors?
A. Registering to vote and requesting absentee ballots in Montana is easy for absent active duty military and overseas electors. You can register and vote using the Secretary of State’s Electronic Absentee System (EAS) by going to www.vote4montana.us.
Within 45 days of a Federal Primary or Federal General election, absent active duty military and overseas electors can visit the Secretary of State’s Electronic Absentee Service (EAS) at www.vote4montana.us, fill out the Federal Post Card Application online, save it and return it via mail, email or fax to the county election office.
If not using the Electronic Absentee System, the best form to use to register is the Federal Post Card Application. This form is used both for voter registration and to request absentee ballots for all the state and local elections through the calendar year following the year in which it is requested.
You can submit it by doing the following:
- Print a Federal Post Card Application form, fill it out and mail it to the local election office; or
- Before you leave for active duty or move overseas, visit your local election office on weekdays between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and complete and submit a Federal Post Card Application form.
Another source of information is the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which has forms and tips on registration and voting, including information about options for voting by facsimile and through the Internet. You can also reach the FVAP at 1-800-438-VOTE (8683).
Q. When is the earliest date that absent active duty military and overseas electors can request absentee ballots?
A. There is no earliest date for absent active duty military and overseas electors to request absentee ballots. An absentee request via a Federal Post Card Application is good for all eligible elections in the calendar year in which the application is made.
Q. What should I do if I am not sure that my absentee ballot will reach me or that my voted ballot will reach the election administrator on time?
A. You can vote using the Secretary of State’s Electronic Absentee System (EAS) by going to www.vote4montana.us. Or, you can choose to contact your county election administrator for information or vote a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, which will be counted if your regular absentee ballot is not received in time. If you choose the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot option, as long as you send your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot on or before election day and your county election administrator receives it within 6 days of the election, it will be counted.
Mail Ballot Elections
Q. What kind of elections can be conducted by mail ballot?
A. Generally, any municipal (city or town) election or district election (school, fire, water and sewer, etc.) can be conducted by mail ballot, if agreed to by the governing body.
Elections that cannot currently be conducted by mail ballot include any regularly scheduled federal, state, or county elections; any special federal or state elections, unless authorized by the Legislature; or any regularly scheduled or special elections when another election in the political subdivision is taking place at the polls on the same day.
Q. How is a mail ballot election different than a non-mail ballot election?
A. In non-mail ballot elections, voters have the option to vote at the polls or request an absentee ballot. In mail ballot elections, all qualified active and provisionally registered voters are mailed ballots on the same day without having to request them.
Q . What if I am going to be absent during a mail ballot election – how do I still receive a ballot?
A. You may vote in person in the election administrator's office as soon as ballots are available. Or, you can make a signed written request that the ballot be mailed to an address other than the address that appears on your registration application. The ballot will be mailed on the same day all other ballots are mailed.
Any such in-person or written requests must be accepted until noon the day before the ballots are scheduled to be mailed.
Q.What if I want to drop my mail ballot off rather than mailing it?
A. You always have the option to drop your ballot off at the county election office or, if available, at one or more alternative places of deposit chosen at the option of the election administrator. Any such places of deposit will be noted in your mail ballot materials.
Q. What kind of voting systems are available in Montana?
A. Voting systems must be certified to meet certain standards before they can be used in Montana. Most counties use either precinct level tabulators called M100s or DS200s or central tabulators, called M650s or DS850s. Some small counties do not use a vote tabulating system, but instead count ballots by hand. All counties have available voter assist terminals called AutoMARKs for use by individuals with vision or mobility impairments.
Q. What is the difference between the types of tabulating methods?
A. There are three different types of tabulation methods used in Montana. The first is a precinct tabulator, the second is a central count tabulator and the third is the manual hand count method.
A precinct level tabulating system involves a voter placing the marked ballot in either an optical scan (M100) or digital scan tabulation (DS200) machine at the polling place. The system will notify you of an undervote, which is an unvoted race or an unvoted ballot and will tell you if you have voted for too many choices in a race, also called an overvote. If you over vote, the machine will prompt you to either return your ballot to be corrected or submit your ballot as is. If there is no notification, or you choose to submit your ballot as is, the LCD screen on the machine count will increase by 1, indicating that your ballot has been counted.
A central count tabulating system gets its name because ballots are brought in from the surrounding precincts to be counted in a central location. This ballot scanner quickly and accurately counts voted ballots. When the machine detects an overvote or a write-in vote, the machine will notify the operator; these ballots are then manually verified.
The third way ballots are counted in Montana is via hand count. Currently there are 11 counties that hand count.
If you would like to see how your county tabulates ballots, please visit this webpage.
Voting Systems Equipped for People with Disabilities
Q. Are there voting systems in Montana that are equipped for people with disabilities?
A. Yes, they are referred to as AutoMARKs, and there is one at every polling place for elections for federal office. The AutoMARK is helpful for individuals with sight impairment, and can also be used by individuals with mobility impairments. You can find out more about the AutoMARK at http://sos.mt.gov/Elections/Disabilities.
Q. What if I do not choose to use the AutoMARK voting system?
A. The AutoMARK is optional; a person can choose to use it, regardless of disability status. If a voter with a disability chooses not to use an AutoMARK the voter has the option to have either an election judge or an individual chosen by the elector assist the voterin marking their ballot. For more information, please review the relevant statute, 13-13-119, MCA.
Q. Where can I find out information about starting a statewide ballot issue petition or about current and past statewide ballot issues?
A. You can go to the following page on the Secretary of State's website http://sos.mt.gov/Elections/Ballot_Issues for information about statewide ballot issues. (For information about past statewide ballot issues, scroll to the bottom of that web page or go to Archived ballot issues.)
For information about current statewide ballot issues, you can go to http://sos.mt.gov/Elections/2014/BallotIssues.
Q. Where can I go to find past election results, including information about votes cast for candidates and on statewide ballot issues, the number of polling places and precincts, and turnout by county?
A. Go to the following link: http://sos.mt.gov/Elections/Results.
Q. On election night during the federal primary and general elections, where can I go for the latest election results?
A. You can go to the SOS website at http://sos.mt.gov for the latest unofficial results on election night.
Campaigns and Campaign Finance
Q. What agency should I contact if I have campaign questions and/or campaign finance questions? Where do I file my campaign reporting forms?
A. For campaign and campaign finance questions, as well as questions about campaign reporting forms, please contact the Commissioner of Political Practices at (406) 444-2942 or email@example.com. The Federal Election Commission, http://www.fec.gov, has jurisdiction over campaign questions regarding federal races, such as congressional races.
Q. I am concerned about receiving automated calls, often called “robo calls.” What should I do?
A. For information about automated calls, please see http://politicalpractices.mt.gov/content/5campaignfinance/RoboCallsHandout.