Montana’s Special Election for the U.S. House seat previously held by Ryan Zinke is set for May 25th, a date that is special for many Montana school children because it is a common date for graduation ceremonies. This coincidence has rendered many polling locations unusable and has caused quite a headache for Missoula County Elections Coordinator Rebecca Connors who says seven polling locations are now out due to graduations and other scheduled events.

"The schools that we received feedback from were Chief Charlo School, Cold Springs School, Franklin School, Lolo School and Russell School, and then we also have, Lowell School, Franklin and Rattlesnake School, which are all under construction from the big construction bond that they're doing," Connors said.

A fourth of Missoula’s 28 polling locations won’t be able to be used on May 25, but Connors is working to find other options. No matter what solutions are reached, the polling place dilemma will affect a lot of people,

"These polling place locations, they affect about 26,000 voters in Missoula County," Connors said. "Statewide there are roughly 20 polling places that election administrators are unable to secure, which will affect about 50,000 voters. In Ravalli County, they lost the Hamilton Gym, they are not able to secure that, and that polling location services about 8,000 voters."

Other polling locations have their own problems with the special election: 1500 Burns Street in Missoula, also happens to be the site of the Burns Street Bistro, a restaurant, which has volunteered to open its doors for polling instead of business on May 25th. There’s a short time-line for all of this planning, Elections Coordinators have to have all of their polling place locations lined up before April 25.

Of course, all of the chaos over polling place location questions may be moot if the Montana legislature decides to get rid of them entirely and create a mail-ballot only special election.


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