By Thu., Oct. 18, Missoula County Elections officials expect most county residents will receive their mail-in ballots for November’s election. But County Clerk and Recorder Vickie Zeier says thousands of registered voters won’t get a ballot because they didn’t vote last year.
The County Election Office classifies 14,659 voters as “inactive” because they missed the most recent federal election and failed to respond to two letters the county sent asking if the person planned to vote again.
The county sent a second round of notification letters to inactive voters on Aug.1, and the recipients had 30 days to respond, or else fall off the mailing list for the November ballot.
“I truly think [the inactive] people have moved,” Zeier contends.
During the September primary, nearly 11,000 ballots were returned to the elections office as undeliverable, but Zeier
says the county now has more accurate information about active, registered voters, and expects fewer ballots to return this time.
Theresa Keaveny, executive director of Montana Conservation Voters in Billings, says with the mail-in balloting people may not know they can vote unless they receive a ballot in the mail.
“There’s never been any tracking on how many inactive voters go to the polls on election days in odd numbered years,” she says, arguing that many inactive voters might want to participate in the election despite their inactive status.
Zeier says her office gave adequate notification to citizens as required by law, and she thinks only about 3,500 of the nearly 15,000 inactive voters on the rolls still live in Missoula.
Keaveny agrees that most people on the inactive list have probably moved, but that doesn’t give her any comfort. She says that with many city elections around the state decided by less than 10 votes, the voices of inactive voters matter, and they might not be heard.
Inactive voters have until 8 p.m. on Tue., Nov. 6 to contact the Elections Office and receive a ballot.