We're all counting down the days until the November election, for various reasons. Most of us in Yellowstone County have received our official ballots in the mail. My wife and I got ours over the weekend. We've been absentee voters for years, so the whole "mail in" thing is kind of old hat. Many people have already sent their ballots back or dropped them off a the courthouse or the alternate drop-off location at MetraPark.

The media has been filled with reports of discarded ballots, missing ballots, duplicate ballots, ballots found in a creek and other horror stories that may lower voter confidence regarding the security of mail-in ballots. In a local story, the Billings Gazette reported that a pair of completed ballots were found, ripped up and laying on the ground near Pioneer Park, and another resident reported their ballot was taken from a West End mailbox on Monday (Columbus Day) when mail service was closed. Were these simply examples of mailbox thieves, or something more nefarious? Who knows.

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While most election experts vouch that the system is largely error-free and that examples of voter fraud are highly exaggerated, you still want to make sure your mail-in vote counts right? Rightfully so. Here are some scenarios for voters in Yellowstone County.

  • "I haven't received my ballot yet."  If all of your friends are posting pics on social media of them mailing their ballots and yours hasn't arrived (by 10/15),  you need to contact Yellowstone County Elections Administrator, Bret Rutherford at brutherford@co.yellowstone.mt.gov to find out how to get a replacement.
  • "I don't trust the mail. Where do I drop off my ballot?" Ultimate peace-of-mind can be had by walking into the election office and dropping off your ballot in-person. For Yellowstone County, the office is on the 1st floor of the Yellowstone County courthouse downtown. Or you can drop them off at MetraPark. Look for signs.
  • "My ballot has an error... now what?" If you received your ballot and something is incorrect, you can request a new ballot. Contact the Yellowstone County Elections office at the email listed above. Printing abnormalities have been known to happen and envelope folding and stuffing machines can occasionally make mistakes. If you happen to receive more than one ballot, fill out ONE and discard the other. Don't try to be sneaky and fill out both. All ballots are verified. You'll probably get caught and could face voter fraud charges.

Don't wait until the last minute to mail your ballot. The legal wrangling regarding election deadlines has been a hot topic this year. Ballots must be received by 8 PM on election day. If you have doubts that it will arrive on time, drop it off in-person.