Larger turnout predicted for Election Day

Deb Hill
Managing Editor
Rana Wichman


Based on early voting numbers, Fergus County Elections Administrator Rana Wichman is forecasting a large turnout for Election Day.

“We are already at 38 percent or so,” Wichman said. “I’m guessing, based on that, when is all is said and done we’ll be around 70 percent or higher.”

The top turnout for Fergus County ever was close to 75 percent, Wichman said. This election may rival that one.

“There’s been a lot more activity with the early balloting than usual,” Wichman explained. “We have registered quite a few new voters, some who are new residents here.”

Wichman said she felt the local government question on the Lewistown ballot was not what is driving the increase in turnout.

“I think it’s the presidential race, and maybe even the governor,” Wichman said.

No specific predications are being made for voter turnout at the state level, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

“I never speculate on turnout numbers, as I will not be satisfied until 100 percent of all eligible Montanans vote,” Secretary of State Linda McCulloch told the News-Argus in a written statement. “Having said that, the voter turnout will be more comparable to that in the 2008 or 2012 presidential election years, rather than in off-year elections.”

Wichman predicts election returns will be available sometime after 10 p.m. on Election Day, if all goes as planned.

“As long as the [vote counting machine] works, we shouldn’t have any trouble getting the results out by 10:30 p.m. that Tuesday,” she said.

Uncertified election results will be posted on the Fergus County website and the Montana Secretary of State website.


Register or vote this Saturday

 Wichman encourages those who still need to register to vote, or those who have trouble voting during the week, to come to the Fergus County courthouse this Saturday, from 8 a.m. to noon.

“I’ll be open this Saturday so people can vote or can register to vote,” Wichman said. “We offer this service for anyone who can’t come in during the week.”

Wichman said she is not required to be open on the weekend, but feels it is a good community service she can provide.

“I have to be here anyway, working on pre-election tasks, so I will also be open for the voters,” Wichman said.

Voting booth rules

Wichman said, given the recent national publicity of people taking cell phone pictures of themselves in the voting booth, it is worth reviewing voting booth rules.

“We don’t allow filming in the polling places,” Wichman said. “If anyone wants to film people in line at the polling places, we require them to contact us for approval ahead of time. They should call the Clerk and Recorder’s office.”

Cell phones are not allowed in the voting booths.

“We have signs up about this, asking people to put their phones away,” Wichman said. “The conversations they might have could disturb other voters.”

However whether or not someone takes a selfie in the voting booth is not something that can be easily controlled, Wichman said.

“We can’t see what they are doing in the booth,” Wichman said.

Parents with small children are discouraged from bringing them to the polls, as they are not allowed in the voting booths, not even with their parents.

“We ran into this at the primary,” Wichman said. “The ruling is only one person can be in the voting booth at a time. So we encourage people to find childcare or one parent can hold the kids while the other one votes.”

No weapons are allowed at the polls except those covered by concealed carry permits.


Where to vote

There are six polling places across Fergus County, including one each in Denton, Grass Range, Moore, Roy, Winifred and Lewistown. The Lewistown polling place is the Trade Center at the fairgrounds. All polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Roy, which is open from noon to 8 p.m.

“We have all our elections judges and poll workers in place,” Wichman said, adding that it takes around 90 volunteers to hold the elections in Fergus County.

“We are seeing fewer people volunteer for elections, and eventually the lack of volunteers will drive us to an all-mail ballot. I don’t like that idea – I’d rather have the option for people to vote at the polls, but we need volunteers to be able to open the polls, so it may come to that.”

Wichman reminds those who would like to vote in this election that they can register up until noon on Nov. 7 and use the voting booth at her office to mark their ballots.

Voters can also register on Election Day, right up until the polls close, but they can only vote at their assigned polling place at that time.



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