Ballot Initiative Results Not Expected Until Wednesday
By The Associated Press
The Latest on the general election in Montana (all times local):
Montana voters may not know the results of two ballot initiatives until Wednesday.
That's because Yellowstone County's ballot is two pages long, with the Medicaid expansion and mine regulation initiatives on a separate ballot sheet.
County elections director Bret Rutherford tells The Billings Gazette the county will release some preliminary numbers on the initiatives early and tally the candidate races before returning to count the rest of the initiative ballots.
Initiative 185 increases taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products to help pay for the state's Medicaid expansion program, which provides insurance for 96,000 Montanans.
Initiative 186 would not allow the state to permit new hard rock mines if their cleanup plans require the perpetual treatment of water.
Polling indicates the initiatives are competitive and likely won't be determined without Yellowstone County's results.
Helena resident Alice Elliott says she voted against a ballot initiative to extend the state's Medicaid expansion program by raising the tobacco tax because she believes both sides' ads were misleading.
The self-described Democrat said she voted for another citizen's initiative to add stricter cleanup standards to mines, but couldn't bring herself to vote for the tax measure because she wasn't fully informed.
The tobacco industry spent more than $17 million on a campaign to defeat the measure and health care groups spending millions more in support of it.
Elliott says she thinks both sides engaged in false advertising, and when that happens, she votes no.
She says there will be future opportunities for Medicaid expansion, which is set to expire next year, and the initiative's defeat will not completely close the door on it.
Five precincts in Missoula County are having random troubles with feeding the second page of the ballot into counting machines.
Elections administrator Dayna Causby says the issue shouldn't affect statewide election results because those pages contain mostly city and county bond issues.
Causby says the software company isn't sure why they're having difficulties feeding about one in every 10 ballots. She says those ballots will have to be counted by hand tonight.
The Missoulian reports the problems are at the Lewis and Clark, St. Joseph's, Hellgate and Russell polling locations. Voters are asked to allow a little extra time to vote.
Hatred and intolerance, in particular against the LGBT community, was the primary motivator cited by Billings Democrat Lynne Fitzgerald as she cast her ballot in Montana's closely-contested U.S. Senate and House races.
Fitzgerald, an assistant professor of outdoor leadership at Montana State University Billings, says Republicans like Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte shouldn't be in positions of power.
She wants to elect candidates who are more open-minded and accepting toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and others.
On Tuesday, that translated into votes for Gianforte's Democratic challenger, Kathleen Williams, and incumbent Democrat Jon Tester for U.S. Senate.
Tester is being challenged by State Auditor Matt Rosendale, an avowed loyalist to President Donald Trump. Fitzgerald blames Trump for separating the country and trying to take away individuals' rights.
Montana computer technician Doran Hatcher had a singular goal in mind as he trudged through a cold, snowy morning to cast his ballot in Tuesday's election: Help President Donald Trump.
Hatcher, a 52-year-old Republican from Billings, said Trump needs all the support he can get from Congress to "drain the swamp" in Washington. And that means Democrats like Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester have to go, Hatcher says.
He voted for State Auditor Matt Rosendale to replace Tester, who is seeking a third term after winning narrow victories in the Republican-leaning state in 2006 and 2012.
Rosendale's candidacy has been boosted by repeated visits to Montana by Trump.
Polls close at 8 p.m.
Most polling places in Montana are open for the 2018 general election.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday with the exception of very rural areas, which are allowed to open at noon.
Snow was reported in Bozeman, Butte and Great Falls this morning, but the National Weather Service says its winter weather advisory will expire at 8 a.m.
Temperatures are expected to reach highs mostly in the 20s and 30s across the state.
Through Monday, nearly 324,000 Montanans had cast absentee ballots.
The outcome of Montana's hotly contested Senate race may come down to which side did a better job of motivating their supporters to show up on Election Day.
Tuesday caps an extended 25-day voting period in Montana's midterm elections, with the top race being the battle between Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican challenger Matt Rosendale.
The candidates and political observers say there aren't many undecided voters left in the race after a record amount topping $67 million was spent to influence their choice.
Both Tester and Rosendale have spent the last days of the campaign focused on getting their supporters to the polls.
Voters also will be deciding whether to give Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte his first full term in office against Democratic challenger Kathleen Williams.