BILLINGS — Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund was the first local candidate to pay his filing fee at the courthouse in Billings on Thursday, the first day of filing season.
Ostlund is seeking his fourth, six-year term on the Commission, a position that pays $73,000 a year. Candidates for local offices must register in Billings, while candidates for state races, including legislators, must go to Helena or file online through the Montana Secretary of State's Office.
Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford says his office is prepping for a busy year, beginning with the Billings school election in May.
As for the June 2 presidential primary, the big difference will be the use of polling places.
"We're used to mail-ballot elections the last year and a half or so, with our school and city elections," Rutherford said. "This is a polling-place election, per Montana law. People who are on the absentee list are going to get mailed a ballot, and there's about 73,000 of those people in Yellowstone County. But if you're not one of them, you're going to have to go to your polling place in June and November. So, if you want to get a ballot through the mail and vote from your own home, get a hold of us, go to our website and download an application and send it to us."
Rutherford points out that the time to file for state and local offices runs through March 9.
For voters, he says this is the perfect time to make sure they’re registered to vote.
“If people aren't registered, get registered now. That's the big thing this year,” said Rutherford. “Don't wait until election day, unless you really like to stand in a long line, because it's very different that being registered and going to the polls to vote."
As of Thursday, 73,000 Yellowstone County voters are signed up to receive absentee ballots this year.
If you're not on that list, and want to vote absentee, Rutherford suggests either contacting the elections office or clicking here to download an absentee application online.
Also, Rutherford points out that any voter who has moved since the last election, should notify elections officials about their change of address.
That will allow authorities to update your records and ensure that if you do vote absentee, the correct ballot can be sent to you.