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On election night, some Montana counties still count ballots by hand, others use high-tech machines

Posted at 7:23 PM, Nov 06, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:51:11-04

BILLINGS – While voters head to the polls and cast their ballots, elections officials across the state of Montana are readying themselves and their machines for a busy night of counting.

For Yellowstone County, the task should be effortless although there is only one tabulation machine. The machine according to the Montana Secretary of State’s website is an ES&S DS 850 which stands for Elections Systems and Software.

The machine costs about $111,500, according to

Many of Montana’s counties also use the same ballot tabulating machine including Missoula, Flathead, Gallatin, and Missoula.

A handful of Montana counties are still counting ballots by hand. Daniels, Carter, Fallon, Garfield, Wheatland, Sweet Grass, Treasure, Powder River, Prairie, and Golden Valley all recorded hand-counted ballots on the Montana Secretary of State’s website.

Although Yellowstone County is Montana’s most populous county and has only one ballot counting machine, other counties use two or three machines with different models.

For example, Flathead County uses the same ballot tabulating machine as Yellowstone County in addition to an ES&S DS Model 650 and Model 100.

Most of Montana’s other counties including Broadwater, Carbon, Choteau, and Custer are just some of the counties that use the Model 100 as well.