Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Hill Co. Clerk & Recorder’s office announced today that the ballots for the Havre City General Election were mailed to all active registered voters today. Voters will be able to vote their ballots and either drop the ballot off at the Courthouse or mail it back to the Elections Administrator’s office by November 3rd. Ballots will be accepted until 8:00 PM, period. The Corrector wants to remind our readers that if you plan on mailing your ballot back, make sure you’ve followed all the instructions, sign the back, check that you have the correct postage and give it plenty of time to be received prior to Election Day. The Corrector wishes all candidates running for office this fall well and the best of luck in this upcoming election. This election will surely be historic for Havre’s future and while the process might be new, the outcome will be ordinary with someone winning and someone losing. But that does beg the question, what is the deal with mail ballots anyway?

Montana law permits local municipalities and school districts as well as specialized districts such as local fire or sewer districts to hold elections by mail and is certainly not new as it has been around since 1985. There have been many attempts over the last several legislative sessions to amend these laws to include all statewide and federal elections as well including SB 394 this past session which failed.

Mail ballots are used in many states for multiple election systems; however, the States of Oregon & Washington conduct all their elections via mail and they love it according to their respective State Elections Administrators because it is more convenient, cheaper and it increases turnout. Does it?

Well the jury is still out on cost. Locally the State Elections Administrators group lobbied hard for the passage of SB 394 arguing that the cost savings alone makes it a no-brainer. Yellowstone County Elections Administrator Duane Winslow claimed that the State of Montana could have saved taxpayers between 3 and 4 million dollars if the 2008 elections were all mail ballot in his testimony to the Montana House of Representatives; however, he offered no details and no facts to back that up, but they still claim significant savings.

It certainly is more convenient for a number of reasons. 1) no waiting in line, 2) no confusion about where to vote, 3) more time to consider options and ask questions, 4) no need to take time out to go to polls. So it is more convenient.

It also does seem to increase turnout. In Havre’s most recent primary election the turnout was 49% which is much higher than the two most previous conventional primaries and the last City general by mail in 2007 saw as much as 70% turnout in some precincts. Similar findings can be seen across Montana.

Critics of an all mail balloting system claim that any potential cost savings is not worth the risk of fraud and ballot manipulation. Project Vote has contended in a long term study of the system that the facts do not bear out the arguments from proponents.  You can read their study by finding it on the internet, it is entitled “Vote-by-Mail Doesn't Deliver.” They make some interesting points in this work, but once again short on facts long on hypotheticals.  Repeating theme? 

The Corrector is interested in the views of Havre's voters out there on this topic?  What say you voters?


  1. Hill County Clerk and Recorder, Diane Mellem, runs as a Democrat, and was furious at the Dems for blocking the all-mail ballot bill. She is insistent that it is fair, accurate, and cost-effective. I tend to agree with her. I personally would miss the nostalgia of going into the ballot booth. But nostalgia is not enough to stop this process. As long as the post office can keep its doors open, I'm in favor of it. Saves money, increases turnout. Win - win.

  2. I love voting by mail. I wish I had done it years ago. I never know where to vote and since I usually have to think about who I want to vote for, I don't feel guilty for holding up other people that are waiting for me to get done. I say "VOTE BY MAIL".

  3. I like voting by mail. It is easier and I am also less likely to miss less"glamorous" elections such as the school elections