Montana’s elected positions have increasingly been won by Republicans, with the GOP winning all partisan elected positions statewide, including the governorship, in 2020. Former President Donald Trump has won 56% of Montana’s vote in 2016 and 2020. Republicans have a strong majority in both houses of the Legislature. The GOP has just two seats left to hold a two-thirds majority in the 150-member legislature; such a majority is needed for legislators to put constitutional amendments to the ballot.
Montana’s ballot also includes a legislative referendum that would threaten healthcare providers with fines and jail time if they fail to provide life-saving medical care to infants born alive, including after an attempted abortion. Opponents argue that the proposal would lead to unnecessary and futile care of infants born with life-threatening medical conditions, rather than allowing family to hold them and keep them comfortable.
Another ballot issue is a constitutional amendment to protect electronic data and communications from unreasonable searches and seizures.
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Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
Polls close in Montana at 8 p.m. local time (10 p.m. EST). Montana has more than 90% of its votes as of noon the day after Election Day. This is partly because counties can ensure that ballots are cast legally before Election Day and can remove ballots from secret envelopes and put them in locked ballot boxes three business days before on polling day. Also, counties can start counting ballots one day before Election Day if votes are counted with a machine. Votes are only counted on polling day in constituencies where they are counted by hand.
How Montana votes:
Most Montana votes absentee. It’s a combination of what the state calls “in-person absentee” voting before Election Day and absentee votes cast by mail sent to a county election office. The reasons for this include the distance a voter may have to travel to get to a polling place as well as the unpredictability of Election Day weather in November in Montana.
Although voters can vote in person on election day, most voters have already voted by then. In fact, most voters in Montana have permanent absentee status, which means they will always vote by mail. In the 2020 general election, over 98% of all voters voted by mail or in person before Election Day. However, pre-pandemic elections had between 65 and 73% of all ballots cast before Election Day.
Montana’s most populous counties are Yellowstone, Missoula, Gallatin, Flathead, Cascade, and Lewis & Clark. Republicans are strong statewide and hold all current statewide positions except for a U.S. Senate seat and nonpartisan state Supreme Court positions. Democratic strongholds are found in the cities of Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena and in the Butte/Anaconda region, as well as in tribal communities.
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AP will tabulate and declare the winners of 97 contested elections in Montana, including two statewide races, two ballots and two US House races. Due to redistricting after the 2020 census, Montana now has two seats in the United States House. In the 2020 general election, the PA first announced the results at 10:06 p.m. EST and had 94% of the results by noon EST on Wednesday, November 4. All votes were counted just after 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
AP does not make projections or name apparent or likely winners. Only when AP is fully confident that a race has been won – defined more simply as when a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory – will we make a call. If a candidate declares victory or offers a concession before AP calls a race, we’ll cover newsworthy developments in our reporting. In doing so, we will clarify that AP has not yet declared a winner and explain why we believe the race is too soon or too close to announce.
The AP can call a statewide or U.S.-wide race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too big for us to call. a recount changes the result.
The AP will not call downvotes on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2%. AP will return to those races later in the week to confirm there are not enough outstanding votes left to count, which could change the outcome.
What else should I know?
Montana residents are now voting to elect two representatives to the United States House. The 2020 Census redistribution, measuring population gains in Montana, resulted in the state being awarded a second seat in the United States House. There is no incumbent in US House District 1, but Republican Ryan Zinke was the only member of the US House from January 2015 until March 2017, when he resigned to become Secretary of the Interior . The state’s current US House member, Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale, is running in US House District 2.
Q: What have we learned from Primary?
A: Republican U.S. House candidate Ryan Zinke appears vulnerable to far-right voters after narrowly winning the primary against former Republican state Rep. Al Olszewski. Due to the closeness of the primary race, AP was unable to call it for Zinke for two days due to pending votes in two counties, the results of which could have impacted the outcome. Two-thirds of the votes cast in U.S. House races in the primary were cast for Republicans. Montana has an open primary, and voters can cast ballots for only one party.
Q: What has changed since the 2020 pandemic election?
A: The legislature passed a law limiting the governor’s power to revise election laws during a state of emergency, transferring that power to the legislature. If the legislature is not in session, the governor can propose changes to the law and submit them to the legislature. Additionally, the Legislature approved criteria for drawing the two congressional districts, including that they be equal in population, boundaries must coincide, be continuous, and compact. And the law now requires the annual updating of the voter registration list. The Republican-controlled Legislature also passed several laws affecting elections — including an end to Election Day voter registration — that have been challenged in court. The voter registration law has been blocked for the general election and people can register on election day.
Q: What does participation and advance voting look like?
A: As of October 24, there were 758,698 registered voters in Montana. Montana does not divide voters by party. Also as of Oct. 25, Montana has mailed 495,235 mail-in ballots and 105,231 of them have been cast. This represents nearly 29% of the total number of mail-in ballots cast in the last midterm elections in 2018. Mail-in ballots for voters in the United States must be returned by Election Day to be counted. . Foreign voter ballots can arrive until November 14 to be counted, but must be postmarked before Election Day.
Q: How long does counting usually take?
A: In Montana, between 94% and 97% of the votes are counted by noon Eastern Time the day after Election Day.
Q: What are the pitfalls of early returns?
A: There may be a slight lag in votes counted after noon ET the day after Election Day. In 2016 and 2018, those votes after noon ET Wednesday were slightly in favor of the Democrats, but in total they moved the vote total by less than 1% of the vote. In 2020, votes counted after noon ET on Wednesday shifted the results nearly 1% toward the Republican nominee. In most races, this change is not enough to affect the outcome of a race. But in particularly close races, this can cause AP to delay calling a winner in a particular race. Also note that vote switching is not uniform across counties and races. Some counties may have no change to one candidate or the other, while other counties may see changes of up to 4% or 5% of the vote.
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Q: What happens after Tuesday?
A: Montana law requires a recount if the contestants are tied once the returns are formalized. The candidate may request a recount if the difference between the total votes of the candidates is less than 0.25% of the total votes cast. If the candidate is defeated by more than 0.25% but less than 0.5% of all votes cast, the candidate may request a recount but would be required to post a bond to cover the costs. Any request for a recount must be made within five days of the official tally of the results. For counties, this date is November 22; for the state, that deadline is December 5.