The Missoula County Elections Office completed its voter canvas Monday, counting 134 provisional ballots, none of which changed the outcome of last week’s election.
Rebecca Connors, the county’s lead elections clerk, said 30,116 ballots were returned this year out of 73,000 eligible voters, a turnout of roughly 41 percent.
“I was estimating a turnout of 40 to 45 percent,” Connors said. “We had some really big ballot issues on there. It definitely helped drive voter turnout.”
With provisional ballots counted, the gap of support on the Missoula County high school bond resolution widened to 237 votes. The building reserve levy for the Frenchtown School District passed by 10 votes.
Connors said state law requires the elections office to wait until the first Monday after Election Day to count provisional ballots. Such ballots pertain to individuals whose voter information could not be immediately verified on election night.
“We learned some lessons on election night, and we’re working with staff to improve upon it, so we can have a good 2016,” said Connors. “Communication is No. 1, making sure the county center is linked up with where we do a lot of ballot processing.”
Connors said election staff was surprised by the number of voters who waited until Election Day to drop off their ballots. They also saw a lot of same-day registration.
“We got socked from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a ton of ballot drops,” Connors said. “That’s probably unprecedented. We weren’t anticipating them.”
The next election will take place in May during the school district’s annual election. The primary follows in June, and then the general election in November.
Election Day next year will include a vote for a new president, and a challenge to Montana’s lone congressional seat by Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, a Democrat.
The seat is currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke.