Voters have waited with baited breaths for their ballot to arrive in their mailboxes.  A caller this morning inspired me to this post about the ballots just mailed out...all three of them.  

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

A coworker agreed with this topic choice, then added, "My father-in-law called me last night, asking questions about the ballots."  I suppose it's understandable.  We expect something pretty clearcut and it's not quite.  For those new to voting, or anyone confused by what they received, let's see if I can help.

The state of Montana does not document party affiliation for a resident when they register to vote.  The voter cards mailed earlier do not list party.  In the primary election, such as now in May, a voter is free to decide which party races they will vote in.  So a Montanan can cast a ballot for either Democrat, Republican or Green.  Others in the state have four ballots in their packet.

The most important sheet of paper in the ballot packet is the Voting Instructions.  Follow these steps and your choices will be respected and counted.

While the steps are pretty straightforward, number 1 states "Choose ONE Ballot to Vote."

Credit: Travis Lee, TSM
Credit: Travis Lee, TSM

Translated: No, please don't mark all three or four and send them in.  Waste of your vote.  The Elections office will not count them.  A voter is free to choose the one party's races they care about and will participate in by voting.

Another caller this morning urged listeners to fill out their ballot and turn it in as soon as possible.  Why?  The only reason a voter should sent it in ASAP is if they will mail it.  The Postal Service will need days for delivery.  Like the Instructions clearly says at the top "a postmark is not accepted."  The best practice is to deliver in person.  That being said, you have until June 4th to carefully think about your choices and fill out the ballot, then turn it in to the Elections Office or drop it in an official ballot box.  As of the date of this article, you have time.

"Who Should I Vote For?"

This is a risky question to ask.  A radio guest suggested that if you absolutely don't know who to vote for in a particular race, ask someone who follows all this political stuff and who can tell you who to vote for.  I'm a little bothered by this advice because at first blush it seems like ceding control of your vote to another person.  But then who do you ask?  I will therefore add that you should ask someone who is knowledgeable and whom you trust, and they should give you concrete information or point you where to look for yourself.  Answers like "Vote for him, he's a (political view)" or "I met her, nice lady" is not nearly enough to make an informed choice.

Perhaps a better question is "Who do you recommend for this specific race, and why?"

Still, do your homework.  An incumbent candidate has a voting record; look it up.  How did they vote on key issues when it mattered most?  What they say in news articles and on media should again be taken with salt.  Politicians say all manner of things.  Their social media may give some insight. Their votes and their actions are their true voice.  And again, you have time.

The key message I have is that you should be in control of your vote.  Don't give your power to someone else with an unfilled ballot or have someone other than the Postal Service deliver it for you.  That piece of paper, that ballot, is truly your power in these elections.

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