Thursday, November 26, 2020

There's still time to make your vote count

by Daily Inter Lake
| November 1, 2020 12:00 AM

Tuesday’s election is being widely characterized as the “most important in a lifetime.”

Of course, that was said in 2016, and 2012, and every fourth year prior. Yet, the cliche seems to ring true in 2020, especially in Montana where the ballot is chock-full of heated contests and significant initiatives that could change the state’s trajectory.

In early October we implored folks to expedite their vote by mailing in ballots as soon as they arrived. Early stats show most Montana residents have heeded that advice. A report on Oct. 30 showed that a whopping 63% of registered voters in the state had already cast their ballots. As of last week, Montana had the highest voter turnout percentage in the U.S., followed by Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

It’s too late to return a ballot by mail now, but there’s still time to take part in this historic election. Ballots need to be returned to drop boxes at the Flathead County Election Office, Columbia Falls City Hall or Whitefish City Hall by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Curious if your mail ballot has been counted yet? It’s easy to check the status online at

On election night, Daily Inter Lake reporters and editors will compile local results provided by county election departments and the Secretary of State Office. Past elections would suggest we’ll know by 11 p.m. who won the county commissioner race, local legislative seats and whether area levies were approved.

The Inter Lake relies on the Associated Press to report the results of the presidential, congressional and state elections. The AP uses a network of local stringers to collect votes at a local level, while other AP journalists gather results from state or county websites, and other data feeds.

An AP “decision team” uses additional information, such as demographic data about a state and statistics about advance voting, to make race calls.

“AP does not make projections or name apparent or likely winners. If AP cannot definitively say a candidate has won, we don’t speculate,” said David Scott, a deputy managing editor who helps oversee AP’s coverage of elections. 

The Inter Lake will push its press deadline back to 1 a.m. on election night, which typically allows a reasonable chance to have most final results in print for the next day’s edition. But if we’ve learned anything this year it’s that nothing is business as usual. We suspect a combination of mail-voting delays and a potentially record-breaking turnout statewide and nationally will slow the process.

Any results that come in after deadline will be posted online and published in the following day’s print edition.

However it plays out Tuesday, it’s going to be one for the history books. From Montana’s tossup Senate and governor races to the push for legalized recreational marijuana, the final tally could in fact reverberate for a generation and prove once again that your vote matters.