Gallatin voters turnout for the midterm

Nov. 4 was a busy day at the election polls as citizens voted on U.S. House and Senate candidates, among other things, in the midterm elections.

Mary Ellen Fitzgerald, county superintendent of schools, spent her entire day helping with the elections at the county courthouse where citizens registered to vote and voted. “It’s been steady all day long,” she said, mentioning that wait to register was “not too bad . . . it’s not as bad as it was for the presidential election when we were here past midnight.”

Charlie Lynch had been in line for nearly two and a half hours and was just about to register to vote. He had moved from his previous home and had not registered to vote in his new district. “I thought I was already registered,” he said.

Although Lynch added that, “They treat their voters pretty nice.” At the courthouse, where only people who were registering to vote on election day actually voted, people had dropped off water, pizza, donuts, granola bars, candy, Pita Pit and more for those who waited in line to exercise their voting rights. “It’s been one of the nicest elections ever,” Cindy Ostrowski, who has served as a part-time election official for several years, said.

Rachel Temme, a sophomore from Billings majoring in microbiology, was in line for a similar reason as Lynch. “I didn’t realize I was registered in the wrong county,” she explained, having discovered only the day before that she was registered to vote in Yellowstone County.

Other people had various reasons for registering to vote on Election Day. “I did register with the Department of Montana Transportation,” Gallatin County resident Don Padon said, “but it didn’t go through.” He noted that apparently some other people had experienced the same problem.

First time voter and Bozeman High School senior Nathan Garvine admitted, “I was lazy and forgot all about it until now.”

Ostrowski explained that those registering at the courthouse were “mostly college students, but it’s been a mix.”

At the polling places, voters of all ages came out to cast their ballots. Kit Taylor, a polling place manager at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, mentioned that they “had a woman who was 102 come in to vote . . . walking.”

Additionally, the election had a high turnout, 54.6 percent for Montana, although this was lower than 2010’s midterm turnout, 56 percent. “I expected a big turnout, but I didn’t expect a lot of in-person voting, I expected a lot of absentee voting. I’ve been surprised how good the turnouts have been,” said Donnely. By 6:30 p.m. over 3,500 ballots had been submitted at the Fairgrounds alone.

For Brandon Shriner, a MSU alumni and 11 year resident of Bozeman, this was the first time in several years that he voted in person instead of using a mail-in ballot. Shriner came to vote against LR-126, a referendum intended to change the deadline for registration to a week before Election Day. Describing the voting experience as “pleasant” he added that the process was streamlined and since he knew where to go it did not take long at all.

Though the polling itself came to a close later in the evening, the work for those who were assisting in collecting and counting the ballots continued through the night, overseen by County Clerk and Recorder, Charlotte Mills. “What really impresses me about the election office, about Charlotte, is that she has to organize this army for the day shift and then she has to organize a whole other hundred people that count ballots up at the courthouse all night long. She’s got 200 volunteers that come out there. I think that’s impressive,” Donnelly said.

Election results:

U.S. Senate: Steve Daines (57.9 percent), Amanda Curtis (40 percent), Roger Roots (2.1 percent)

U.S. House: Ryan Zinke (55.5 percent), John Lewis (40.4 percent), Mike Fellows (4.1 percent)

Montana Supreme Court Justice Seat One: James Rice (78.3 percent), W. David Herbert (21.6 percent)

Montana Supreme Court Justice Seat Two: Mike Wheat (59.1 percent), Lawrence VanDyke (40.9 percent)

Constitutional Amendment No. 45

Would change the name of state auditor to commisioner of securities and insurance

Against (51.6 percent), For (48.4 percent)

Legislative Referendum No. 26

Would end same-day voter registration and move the last day to the Friday before Election Day

Against (56.9 percent), For (43.1 percent)

Rouse Justice Center Bond

Against (54.5 percent), For (45.5 percent)

Rouse Justice Center Mill Levy

Against (51.9 percent), For (48.1 percent)