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Poll: Montanans Prefer Vote-By-Mail in November

A new poll finds many Montanans don't feel safe going to a polling place and would rather vote by mail this November. (Alcorn Imagery/Adobe Stock)
A new poll finds many Montanans don't feel safe going to a polling place and would rather vote by mail this November. (Alcorn Imagery/Adobe Stock)
July 13, 2020

MISSOULA, Mont. -- Most Montanans are hoping to vote by mail this November, according to a new poll.

The University of Montana's Big Sky Poll finds 66% of voters want to cast their ballots at their mailbox.

Sara Rinfret, chair of the UM Department of Public Administration and Policy and co-director of the poll, says despite President Donald Trump's accusations that voting by mail leads to fraud, she says Montanans aren't worried about this.

"With COVID it's linked back to health and safety of participants," she states. "And so you saw folks, you know, in line in Wisconsin and then individuals end up getting COVID."

The poll found a quarter of people believe it would be unsafe to vote at a polling place this November.

Rinfret also notes that voter fraud for mail-in elections is extremely low. Counties were allowed to conduct all-mail ballots for the June primaries.

But Rinfret says there are other concerns with voting by mail.

"People prefer to cast their ballots via mail, but what other implications does it have in terms of access for the tribal community in our state?" she raises.

Rinfret says many Native Americans on reservations use post office boxes, which can be miles from their homes and hard to reach to cast their ballots.

Another challenge of this election is engagement. The Big Sky Poll finds only 53% of respondents strongly agree their vote matters and only 30% percent have a lot of trust elections are fair.

But Rinfret believes campaigns during the pandemic could engage more people.

"Instead of door-to-door, they might be doing Facebook Live or Instagram Live, and so a lot of people are excited that maybe might not normally participate in this process, are getting to know their candidates more," she explains.

The Big Sky Poll surveyed 517 registered Montana voters online between June 17 and 26.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT