Montana voters receive primary ballots by mail on May 8

Ballots for Montana’s June 2 statewide primary elections will be mailed to voters beginning on May 8.

On March 25, Governor Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive authorizing, but not requiring, counties to conduct the upcoming primary elections entirely by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. On April 6, KTVH reported that all of Montana’s 56 counties opted to conduct their primary elections entirely by mail with ballots being sent out on May 8.

Voters can return completed ballots in the mail or in-person at their respective county election offices. All ballots must be received by election officials before 8:00 pm on June 2.

Primary elections in Montana are expected to be competitive this year with open races for U.S. House, attorney general, secretary of state, and governor. In 2016, President Donald Trump (R) defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in Montana 56.5-35.9%.

Montana has had a Democratic governor since 2005 and is one of 14 states with a divided government. Democrats hold the governorship and Republicans control both the state House of Representatives and state Senate. Montana is also one of 14 states with divided triplex control, with a Democratic governor, a Republican attorney general, and a Republican secretary of state.

In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Mike Cooney, the current lieutenant governor, is facing businesswoman Whitney Williams. On the Republican side, Attorney General Tim Fox, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, and State Sen. Al Olszewski are vying for the nomination. Gianforte was the 2016 Republican gubernatorial candidate. Incumbent Gov. Bullock defeated Gianforte 50.2-46.4% in that election.

There is a 150% increase in the number of state legislative incumbents facing primary challenges this year. In 2018, 10 incumbent legislators faced contested primaries. In 2020, 25 incumbents are facing primaries. In total, there will be 55 state legislative primaries this year. Republicans currently control both the House (57-42) and Senate (30-20).

Montana’s state legislative lines will be redrawn following the 2020 Census. Montana is one of six states where state legislative redistricting is handled by an independent commission rather than the legislature. The majority and minority leaders of both chambers select one member each. Those four members then agree upon a fifth member to serve as the chair. No public officials may serve on the commission.

Additional reading:
Montana elections, 2020
Montana gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2020 (June 2 Democratic primary)
Montana gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2020 (June 2 Republican primary)