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Ravalli County Moves Hamilton Polling Place for Special Election

fairgrounds buildings
Ravalli County Fairgrounds Commercial Building and grandstands. (Steve Fullerton, Townsquare Media)

The May 25 special election to replace U.S. House Representative Ryan Zinke is causing some adjustments in polling places around the state, including Hamilton.

The usual polling place for Hamilton precincts is the Hamilton High School gym. That area is being used for graduation activities that day, so County Clerk and Record Regina Plettenberg looked for a nearby replacement polling place.

The Ravalli County Fairgrounds Event Center is not available for that day, but the Commercial Building and the grandstand areas were open. Those buildings have good parking and are handicapped accessible. Monday morning, March 27, the commissioners agreed to move the Hamilton voting booths there, if a “mail-in” election proposal does not pass the Montana Legislature.

The state legislators have been debating the mail-in issue for weeks, even before Rep. Zinke was confirmed as the new head of the Department of the Interior, leaving his seat in the House of Representatives vacant.

However, deadlines are looming. Plettenberg said that polling place changes must be made at least 30 days before an election. It would be a temporary move. The polling place would return to the Hamilton gym for future elections.

Plettenberg also said a Ravalli County election that includes polling places would cost about $66,700, while a mail-in only ballot would be about $54,000. The commissioners voted to make sure the money would be allocated for whichever amount is needed.

A statewide special election is rare for Montana. It’s been decades since the last one.

And the latest wrinkle in the special election – officials are now waiting on a court ruling to determine if a Green Party candidate should be added to the ballot.

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