The votes are finally counted from last week’s election in Montana.
Malfunctioning ballot machines in Yellowstone County stopped county election officials from finishing the ballot count until Friday afternoon. Results were also slower than normal other parts of the state, although only by a few hours. The Secretary of State’s Office attributes that to a longer than normal ballot this year, with five ballot measures
The state won’t be releasing its analysis of voter turnout until after the Veteran’s Day holiday.
We asked how leaders of the two main parties feel about the results.
Montana Republican Party Executive Director Bowen Greenwood commended state Democrats for winning the ballot’s top two elections for US Senate and Governor, against the expectations of many.
“They definitely have a well-organized get out the vote effort, there’s no question about that,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood says it’s easier for Democrats to pick up new votes using the same day voter registration system, and he says they took full advantage.
“As a general rule,” he said, “the people who register far in advance and have been registered for many years are the ones who are more likely to be target voters for us, rather than people who have registered until right at the last minute.”
Montana Democratic Party Spokesman Chris Saeger says their victories were an effort of sheer will.
“Our field team did an outstanding job of getting volunteers excited and mobilized,” Saeger said; the party was knocking doors all over Montana and making phone calls. He has no problem saying the party took advantage of same-day registration.
“It’s important that every Montanan who wants to vote and is eligible to vote has the ability to exercise that right. And same-day registration is certainly part of it,” Saeger said.
The Montana GOP’s Bowen Greenwood says the party is looking at what it can do to make the same-day system work better for them. He says it will take a few years to work out a strategy.
Following the re-election of President Obama on the national stage, many pundits said it’s time for the GOP to do some soul-searching about the direction of the party. Here in Montana, Greenwood doesn’t think this election was a verdict on ideology one way or another.
For example, he says of the eight Republicans who lost seats in the state House of Representatives, a couple were very conservative but the others were more moderate.
“It’s not that you see conservatives losing and moderates winning or the other way around. That wasn’t what was happening in this election,” Greenwood said.
The GOP maintains control of both houses of the Legislature, as well as the state’s seat in Congress. It’s far from a Democratic sweep. Greenwood says if expectations had not been so high, last Tuesday would have been seen as a victory.
“At this point, there are three seats in Montana statewide elections or larger than legislative elections that changed hands. Every single one of them changed from democrat to republican,” He said.
Also, a recount waits for the race of Superintendent of Public Instruction, where incumbent Democrat Denise Juneau leads Republican Sandy Welch by less than 15 hundred votes. Greenwood also looks at the Tester-Rehberg Senate race and points to the six percent of the vote gained by Libertarian Dan Cox as a spoiler.
Chris Saeger of the Montana Democrats disagrees.
“We won the majority of the votes on that race and that’s what it takes to win. I mean, we had a candidate who had an outstanding message, ran an outstanding field game and could have won in a two-way race, could have won in a 4 way race,” Saeger said.
For both parties, another major election waits just two years away. About time to start planning.