BILLINGS — More than 76,000 Yellowstone County voters had cast their general election ballots by Monday evening for a turnout of 77 percent. And elections officials are warning voters who haven't turned in their ballots to drop them off in person, and don't use the mail.
“On Election Day, the Montana Pavilion is the only place in the county to get a replacement ballot or to register to vote. We do have multiple drop sites, one including a drive-thru on the Metra campus. All the other drop sites around the county are for drop off only," said Bret Rutherford, Yellowstone County elections administrator Monday.
As of Monday evening, 76,000 Yellowstone County ballots had been accepted by the elections office. That's about 5,000 more votes than were cast in the 2016 election, which saw about 71,800 total votes. Yellowstone County turnout was at 77 percent as of Monday evening with 76,000 accepted ballots of the 98,000 that were issued.
Rutherord said polling locations at the Yellowstone County Courthouse and Montana Pavilion at MetraPark were busy on Monday, but he didn't see many ballots come in the mail, which is a good sign that people are heeding instructions.
“The mail was very light today, which is very encouraging because that means people are actually heeding our warning to drop off their ballots. But we’ve had a lot of people drop their ballots off at the courthouse and it sounds like it’s been pretty busy here too, which is good. We already broke the record on Saturday, we were over 75,000 ballots cast. The more the merrier, lets just see how high we can go," Rutherford said.
Late voter registration closed at noon Monday. For people still looking to register, they must do so at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Election Day to receive a ballot. Rutherford said voters still needing to register should arrive early, as he expects it to be a very busy day on Tuesday.
"I highly recommend the earlier the better, because the line will be shorter. But that’s all relative, tomorrow I think is just going to be a really busy day," Rutherford said.
If you still have a mail ballot yet to be cast, do not put it in the mail. It will not arrive in time to be counted. Instead, Rutherford said you should take your ballot to one of the 12 drop off locations that will open on Election Day.
“If you do have a mail ballot in your possession, go ahead and vote it and drop it off. You can’t mail it anymore. It’s not going to get to us in time. I wouldn’t discard it and go get a ‘real ballot’ down at the Metra, because you are going to stand in line for exactly the same thing, envelopes and all. So, vote the ballot we sent you if you still have it," Rutherford said.
The 12 drop off locations will be open from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Election Day. See the list below for addresses.
Yellowstone County Ballot Drop Off Locations
- Blue Creek School – 3652 Blue Creek Rd, Billings
- Canyon Creek School – 3139 Duck Creek Rd, Billings
- Custer School – 304 4th Ave, Custer
- Elysian School – 6416 Elysian Rd, Billings
- Independent School – 2907 Roundup Rd, Billings
- Laurel High School – 203 E 8th, Laurel
- Lockwood High School Community Room – 1932 US HWY 87, Billings
- MT Pavilion at Metra Park – 308 6th Ave N, Billings
- Pioneer School – 1937 Dover Rd, Billings
- Shepherd School Admin Building – 7842 Shepherd Rd, Shepherd
- Yellowstone County Courthouse – 217 N 27th St, Billings
- Yellowstone Valley Electric Co-Op – 150 Cooperative Way, Huntley
Around MetraPark on Election Day, there's a good chance you may see political signs and people promoting candidates around the property. Montana election law states political signs can't be placed within 100 feet of entrances to polling places.
At the Metra, 100 feet reaches from the pavilion front door to around the first row of parking spots. Rutherford said anywhere past that is fair game for political signs.
"It’s basically out to the first parking spots. But beyond that, people are free to do whatever they want, wave signs, wear hats, or have shining lights on their truck," Rutherford said.