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Nov 9, 2012 9:30 AM by Jay Kohn - Q2 News

County Commissioners to take closer look at voting problems

BILLINGS - Yellowstone County Commissioners plan to sit down next week with elections administrator Brett Rutherford to discuss this year's voting problems.

Commission chairman John Ostlund acknowledges that commissioner have heard plenty of complaints about the issues at the county's central polling place at MetraPark, but Ostlund says he thinks its premature to suggest the county should abandon the central polling place concept.

"Finding polling places that meet the handicap accessible requirements, and finding election workers has become a real challenge," Ostlund said.

"I think we want to be thorough about the process, but let's revisit what we've got, and see if we can make it better first," explained Ostlund.

Long lines at the county's central polling place at MetraPark on Tuesday, resulted in up to a four hour wait for those wishing to register to vote on election day.

Elections officials registered as many as 700 voters on Tuesday, which Ostlund said caught officials off guard.

Ostlund said he believes the county can do a better job educating voters about the convenience of registering early.

Waiting until the last minute to register, Ostlund said, is like buying a plane ticket the same day you want to fly.

"The ticket will cost you more, you'll probably have to stand in line, and there's a good chance you won't get on the plane," Ostlund explained.

Ostlund also believes some of the other problems that cropped up this year can be easily addressed, such as more traffic control for organized parking, and using larger envelopes, so absentee voters would not have to fold their ballot in half to mail it back in.

"It was a double ballot this year, and they're made of stiff cardboard," said Ostlund.

"We believe we can significantly help that just by adding more postage and sending a flat envelope that will go through the ballot counting machines more effectively," said Ostlund.

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