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Missoula vote

Early voters fill the voting booths at the Missoula County Elections headquarters in November 2018.

Missoula voters in three city wards have until tomorrow, Sept. 10, to choose their preferred City Council candidate to advance to the November election.

But as of a week ago, mail ballot turnout so far has been pretty dismal. Maybe those remaining voters are confused about the voting process, or merely waiting for the opportunity to drop of those ballots or fill out a ballot in person at the polls. Whatever the case, residents of wards 1, 3 and 4 ought to be sure to make their choice known, and vote before the polls close tomorrow.

It’s now too late to return ballots by mail, but voters who have already filled out a mail ballot can still drop it off at the Missoula County Elections Office at the Fairgrounds.

And voters looking for information about the candidates can find it on the Missoulian website. City Council races are nominally nonpartisan, but the local Democrat and Republican parties have held candidate forums and issued endorsements. Those endorsements, as well as candidate Q-and-As, are available at Missoulian.com.

This election cycle, more than two candidates filed to run in wards 1, 3 and 4, so city leaders choose to narrow the field by holding a primary election. Then, the Missoula County Elections Office missed the deadline to file paperwork to hold an all-mail election, meaning that in addition to mail ballots, it had to set up polling locations in each of the three affected wards.

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Missoula County Elections Administrator Dayna Causby told the Missoulian last week that turnout had reached only 22%. The highest turnout, 29%, was in Ward 4, while Ward 1 came in next at about 20% and Ward 3 lagged behind at just 18%.

Previous city primaries have seen turnout of about 30% — still a disappointingly low number.

Missoulians have a reputation for being politically active and civilly engaged. No single vote holds more power than in a local election, and a ward-level race is as local as it gets.

Registered voters who didn’t get a ballot in the mail should check their status with the Elections Office. Call 258-4751, or stop by the Fairgrounds. Those who intend to vote in person should plan on making a trip to their polling place between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Of course, it’s best not to wait until the last minute.

The polls will be open at Rattlesnake Elementary, 1220 Pineview Drive, for voters in Ward 1; the Missoula Senior Center, 705 S. Higgins Ave., for voters in Ward 3; and at Lewis and Clark Elementary, 2901 Park St., for voters in Ward 4.

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