The big day is here. Election 2012.
As of 4 PM today, the secretary of state’s office reports about 86 percent of absentee voters have turned in their ballots—breaking Montana absentee records. A lot of people are still waiting in long lines across the state to vote, that is—after they register.
21 year old Helena resident Kyler Stewart was holding a tall energy drink and waiting in the Lewis and Clark County courthouse. Just a few spots from the counter where he would be able to register.
It’s his first time voting.
“This is a whole new experience for me and I’m glad it’s almost over now,” Stewart said.
“How long have you been standing in line?” I asked him.
He craned his head around to look at the clock, careful not to step out of place in line.
“Uh, two hours now,” he said.
It’s a similar story in cities across Montana; two hour lines in Billings, hour-long waits in Great Falls
Secretary of State Communications Director, Terri McCoy.
“Yeah, we’re hearing from a lot of the larger counties some longer lines which shows great enthusiasm for this election,” said Secretary of State Communications Director, Terri McCoy. “We’re just asking people to be patient and everybody will get their chance to vote.”
Missoula County election officials are reporting a busy day, with turnout similar to the last presidential election in 2008. Spokeswoman Anne Hughes says those waiting till today to register are lining up at the elections center at the Missoula County fairgrounds:
“We do have a couple of overflow rooms for folks so they’re not having to wait outside although I hear it’s lovely outside. I hear the wait at the election center is about an hour this afternoon and it’s probably gonna increase as the day goes on,” Hughes said.
Hughes says the public should use the South Avenue Entrance to the Missoula fairgrounds if folks still need to register.
Voters can register right up until the polls close at 8 PM tonight. After that nobody new can line up, but those in line will go through the process. Those who still haven’t turned in their absentee ballot they received in the mail must now do so in person at the county election office or their particular polling place.
Postmarks are not accepted.
McCoy says election officials are already counting ballots.
“Counties were allowed to prepare their absentees yesterday, under Montana law and they could start counting those votes today,” she said.
Results from the Secretary of State’s office will begin to go live at 8 PM tonight. It’s unclear how long it will take for final results.
Election officials say all the late registrants could delay the release of results while all those last minute ballots are counted.
Back at the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse, Kyler Stewart was up next to register, wishing it all could just be rushed along a bit. Some people get voting day off, but he was late for work.
“I was supposed to be at work at three o’clock and I had to call my boss and tell him I’m standing in line to vote,” Stewart said.
Engaging in his civic duty, even if it annoyed him a little bit.