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Montana attorney returns home to Billings to run local elections

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Posted at 6:49 PM, Nov 07, 2022

BILLINGS — It's a position that has recently been thrust into the spotlight with some elections officials and volunteers around the country facing harassment and violence.

But that doesn't sway Ginger Aldrich, Yellowstone County's newest election administrator.

“I think elections are the center of our democracy. People have concerns and we always have to help people address those concerns," Aldrich said. "I think when there are more concerns, it's important for people to put their hand up and say, Look, I'm willing to get in there and help out.”

“I felt like this was a good time to get into elections, even though it is certainly a challenging time across the country in elections, I thought it's time to put my hand up," Aldrich said.

For more than a decade, Yellowstone County elections were in the hands of Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford.

In September, Rutherford announced his departure, saying he felt it was time for something new.

From the corps of dedicated volunteers, Kevin Gillen, Yellowstone County's retired deputy county attorney, stepped up.

“What's really eye-opening is I've spent 20 years of elections working at polling places, not completely understanding or grasping the tremendous amount of work and volunteers involved in," Gillen said.

“In this interim role, I'm learning very fast as much as humanly possible. The nuts and bolts of where we go from there with the ballots, how the ballots are managed, how the ballots are moved forward, how they're organized coherently how they get to tabulation, how the votes are actually stored and tabulated by precincts," Gillen said.

Gillen is carrying the department through the Tuesday elections and then will pass the reins to Aldrich—a Billings native and longtime legislative attorney.

"I had been a legislative attorney for the past 10 years, and one of my topic areas that I deal with specifically is elections. And I'm also from Yellowstone County, originally born and raised here. So it is really exciting to be able to come back home to Billings and service the election administrator," Aldrich said.

Running elections in Yellowstone County is a big task.

There are nearly 160,000 registered voters, the majority of whom vote absentee.

As of Monday evening, more than 82,000 absentee ballots have been sent out and 50,138 ballots have been returned.

If there's any message Aldrich wants to send, it's to put trust in Montana's elections and to come to the process yourself.

“Montanans agree that Montana elections are safe, secure. We have integrity with our elections. We're an open book. They can come down and check us out and we wanna see 'em all out at the polls," Aldrich said.