Governor Steve Bullock at a press conference in Helena on Thursday ordered the Secretary of State and county election officials to add mail-in ballots and expand early voting to traditional polling place voting to the upcoming general election.

Bullock said the danger of voting in person due to COVID 19 was the cause for the new order issued today.

“The Montana Association of Counties and the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders and election administrators asked that I give counties the option to conduct the 2020 general election by mail, as we did in the June primary,” he said. “They requested that I make that determination by this coming Monday, August 10th to allow the time to make sure that their local election administrators are prepared.”

Bullock said there were ethical considerations involved in allowing the counties to offer mail-in ballots.

“Local election administrators stress that there are serious ethical concerns about conducting an election under standard procedures that will force local county election workers and voters alike to choose between safety, many of whom are in high risk populations, and the right to vote,” he said.

Bullock said this option will allow for early voting for those who choose to mail in their ballots.

“It only makes sense that we start preparing now to ensure that no Montanan will have to choose between their vote or their health,” he said. “They didn't have to in June and they shouldn't have to in November. Therefore, as we did for the June primary, I issued a directive today to allow counties the choice to conduct a mail ballot election, and expand early voting for the 2020 November general election.”

Bullock said he has ordered all officials involved in the election process to begin making preparations for mail-in ballots for the general election.

“I requested the Secretary of State include designated places of deposit locations on the voters’ My Voter page profiles, in addition to available polling places, he said.  “I recommended that counties make Automark or Express Vote available at the polling locations from October 2, 2020 through Election Day.”

Governor Bullock, a Democrat, is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Steve Daines.

President Donald Trump said he firmly opposes mail-in voting as, in his view, it is more subject to voter fraud.

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