Cooney concedes:

Justin Franz reporting from Kalispell:

Getting some clarity on why it took so long for results to come out of Flathead County tonight. One vote-counting machine went down earlier tonight, but it’s back up and running. Also, some ballots in the county were two pages, but Kalispell’s were three pages because of a school levy. The additional page was inflating the number of ballots they thought they had counted. Before releasing numbers they wanted to make sure they had sorted that out. Election officials say their count is accurate and things are going well now. They note that every Election Night has some “gremlins.”

AP reports a Rosendale win for Montana’s U.S. House seat:

AP calls Senate race for Daines:

Jenn Rowell reporting from Cascade County:

With 38,044 ballots counted at about 11:15 p.m. in Cascade County, elections officials estimate they have about 10% of cast ballots left to process and count. Elections staff are still processing the last trays of ballots and appear to be moving through them pretty quickly.

The last voters left Exhibition Hall at about 11 p.m. after hours of waiting in line outside in the dark parking lot of the Montana ExpoPark fairgrounds.

County election official Rina Fontana Moore said “everything went very smoothly today.”

Deputies with the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office who were onsite throughout the evening said there had been no incidents during their shift and hadn’t heard of any incidents earlier in the day.

Justin Franz reporting from Kalispell:

Three and a half hours after polls closed in Kalispell, the Flathead County Election Department has finally begun to report results via the Secretary of State website. The initial numbers show strong support for Republicans up and down the ballot, except in Whitefish — a usual blue spot in Flathead County’s sea of red — where Democrat Dave Fern was looking to retain his seat in the House of Representatives.

Full story — Gianforte declared winner:

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte appears to have won election as Montana’s next governor Tuesday night, defeating Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney in a victory that will likely bring Montana’s statehouse under unified GOP control for the first time since 2005. READ MORE

Justin Franz reporting from Kalispell:

More than three hours after the polls closed in Kalispell, the Flathead County Election Department has not reported any results, despite starting to count mail-in ballots yesterday. Officials continue to assure poll watchers and media at the Flathead County Fairgrounds, where the vote count is taking place, that some results will be released soon. According to local officials, there were still about 20 people in line to vote at about 10:45 p.m.

Jenn Rowell reporting for MTFP from Great Falls:

At 10:30 p.m. there were five people left in line to register to vote and about a dozen people left filling out their ballots in the Cascade County election hall. More than 37,000 ballots have already been run through the counting machines, and once the last voters have cleared out of the building, election officials can run the first batch of results.

Election officials said that though the wait time ranged from 1.5 to 4 hours for voters, the process went smoothly with no incidents throughout the day.

Associated Press calls the governor’s race for Greg Gianforte:

MTFP’s Chris Aadland reporting from Metra Park in Billings:

Voters were still in line as of about 10 p.m. at Yellowstone County’s in-person voting location in Billings. It was unclear how many remained because a MTFP reporter wasn’t allowed inside, but it appeared to be dozens. An election official at the polling place, MetraPark, said the county would cease counting votes at midnight and resume tomorrow. A little more than 45% of ballots cast in the county — Montana’s largest — had been counted as of 10:30 p.m

Johnathan Hettinger reporting early results from Gallatin County:

Results from more than 63,322 votes were released in Gallatin County at 9:45 p.m. Earlier today, the state reported that Gallatin County has 88,490 voters. But Eric Semerad, Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder, said the total number of registered voters is not yet finalized, since many registered today. The early results? Former Vice President Joseph Biden is leading President Trump, 34,198 to 26,532. In the race for U.S. Senate, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock leads Republican incumbent Steve Daines 36,096 to 26,775. Daines is from Bozeman.

In the race for governor, Democrat Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney leads Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte by a count of 33,937 to 26,525. Gianforte is also from Bozeman. In the U.S. House race, Kathleen Williams, from Bozeman, leads Matt Rosendale 35,327 to 27,028.  

Here’s a more readable result from Gallatin County.

Justin Franz reporting for MTFP from Kalispell:

MTFP’s Mara Silvers reporting from Helena:

Johnathan Hettinger reporting for MTFP from Gallatin County:

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Kevin Trevellyan reporting from Helena:

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock addressed voters shortly before polls closed on Election Night from the Montana Democratic Party’s Election Night headquarters at the Helena Civic Center. In a Facebook livestream, Bullock thanked organizers and volunteers, who he said knocked on more than 500,000 doors and made more than 2 million phone calls on his behalf.

“I know this has been an incredibly long campaign season, but every day I’ve been inspired by you all, who took time out of your busy lives to help me along the way.”

Bullock praised the record-breaking voter turnout seen in Montana. The race between him and incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines is still considered a toss-up. While candidates are periodically stopping by the Helena Civic Center, a Montana Democratic Party spokesperson says Bullock is watching results come in with his family at the Great Northern Hotel.

Alex Sakariassen reporting for MTFP from Ravalli County:

Shortly before 8 p.m. in Hamilton, the lawn outside the Ravalli County Courthouse was quiet and dark. None of the election night lines reported in cities elsewhere in Montana. Just a few silhouettes milling around the door to election HQ.

As the clock struck eight, a voice in a nearby county basement drifted from behind a glass partition separating poll watchers from election judges. “It’s over.”

Ravalli County Election Administrator Regina Plettenberg hand-delivered the results of 25,045 ballots submitted prior to Election Day, and anticipated that an additional 3,000 remained to be counted. Those unofficial results showed federal and statewide races skewing Republican by predominantly two-to-one margins. Local legislative seats were also swinging heavily to Republican candidates Theresa Manzella in Senate District 44, Michele Binkley in House District 85 and Ron Marshall in House District 87. Republicans Sharon Greef in House District 88 and David Bedey in House District 86 were running unopposed.

As of 9:15 p.m., election judges were still counting ballots and noshing on Domino’s pizza.

MTFP reporter Mara Silvers reporting from Helena:

Alex Sakariassen reporting for MTFP from Ravalli County:

Justin Franz reporting for MTFP from Kalispell:

Alex Sakariassen reporting for MTFP in Ravalli County:

Jenn Rowell reporting for MTFP from Great Falls:

In Cascade County, the line of voters at Montana Expo Park snaked out of the election hall through the fairgrounds about a quarter mile when polls closed at 8 p.m.

County elections officials estimate it will be 9:30 to 10 p.m. before they’re able to run the first batch of results.

Throughout the day, wait times have ranged from 1.5 to 4 hours as several thousand people arrived to register to vote on Election Day.

As of Tuesday afternoon, elections staff had accepted about 34,000 ballots, or about 80% of those that had been mailed, according to Rina Fontana Moore, the county’s election official.

At 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, voters waited an hour or more to cast ballots at the Gallatin
County Fairgrounds. Photo by Jodi Hausen

Johnathan Hettinger reporting for MTFP from Bozeman:

A couple dozen people were in line at the Gallatin County Courthouse when polls closed at 8 p.m. Those still in line are new registered voters or those who didn’t receive a mail-in ballot for whatever reason. One of the last people in line was McKenna Johnson, who rushed to the courthouse after getting off work in downtown Bozeman. Johnson, who was registered to vote in Kalispell but now lives in Bozeman, came by the courthouse earlier today and registered to vote. But the line was too long to be able to vote before she had to get to work — an election official said lines this afternoon were as long as two hours. The courthouse is one of two places in the county where people can vote, with the Gallatin County Fairgrounds being the other.

Johnson said she checked out the courthouse earlier today as well, but lines were too long.  As the polls closed, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported a short line at the fairgrounds. 

Earlier today, Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder Eric Semerad said roughly 80% of ballots had been returned prior to Election Day. Counting of ballots started Monday morning, and more than 32,000 had already been counted by Tuesday morning, Semerad said. That will make the first report of election results fairly comprehensive, Semerad said.

“As soon as the last voter votes tonight, at both the fairgrounds and here at the courthouse, we will release the first initial results,” he said. “Those should be a pretty good chunk of the ballots. We’re hoping to have most of them through at that point. What will not have been through is all of the ballots at the places of deposit right now.”

Some ballots from deposit boxes across Gallatin County will take a while to get to Bozeman, with boxes as far away as West Yellowstone. That means totals likely won’t be finalized this evening.

“We’re probably going to suspend counting at some point tonight,” Semerad said.

“I don’t anticipate being done on Tuesday. This is going to be a Wednesday thing,” he said. “Wednesday morning would be ideal, but it’s possible it could go longer than that.”

Justin Franz reporting for MTFP from Kalispell:

Thirty minutes before the polls close, hundreds of people were still standing in a line that wrapped around the block at the Flathead County Election Department in Kalispell. Officials have told people that if they are in line before 8 p.m. they will be able to cast a ballot. Some people said they had been standing in line more than two hours for the chance to register and vote. Anthony Herbel of Whitefish said he had not yet registered to vote in Montana since moving here from Minnesota three years ago. Despite the long line, he was excited to cast a ballot, particularly to legalize marijuana. “This is a huge election,” he said. 

Lauri Kindness, regional organizer for Western Native Voice, stands behind the organization’s voter pop-up station across the street from the Big Horn County Courthouse in Hardin, November 3, 2020. Credit: Kaitlyn Nicholas/Yellowstone Public Radio

In the final hours of the election, advocates working to get out the Native American vote in Montana are pulling out all the stops to connect with difficult-to-reach voters.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Kaitlyn Nicholas reports from Hardin, where absentee ballot returns trail the rest of the state.

Live polling in Stillwater County seat Columbus. Chris Aadland/MTFP

MTFP reporter Chris Aadland reporting from Stillwater County:

I’m in Stillwater County (Columbus), one of the 11 Montana counties that decided to not hold an all-mail election. Poll worker told me it’s been pretty slow overall today. Where I was, a few voters trickled in and out, but no lines. Masks were required, one worker disinfected areas after they were used, and they asked voters to take the provided pen home with them after voting so people weren’t re-using germy pens. “That’s a COVID thing,” I overheard one poll worker telling a voter. Stillwater County’s Election Administrator Heidi Stadel told me things have “gone pretty smooth.” No major hiccups, mostly no lines and plenty of volunteer poll workers. She said it looked like the county was on track for a record turnout.

Voters line up inside the Butte Civic Center to cast votes in the last few hours before the polls close. Nov. 03, 2020. Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Reporter Nora Saks, with our Election Night partner Montana Public Radio, interviews long-time Butte-Silver Bow County Clerk and Recorder’s Office volunteer Rich Henningsen about an Election Day tradition that’s surviving Montana’s mail-in election.

From reporter Justin Franz in Kalispell:

Glacier County Election Administrator Mandi Bird Kennerly has been preparing for this election for weeks, but she tonight she’ll be stuck at home. On Friday, Kennerly was informed that she had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and would have to self-quarantine for two weeks. In a press release, Kennerly said she’s feeling fine, but is “devastated” that she can’t be at work tonight. Instead, Deputy Assistant Election Administrator Crystal Cole will be running the show at county offices in Cut Bank. Last week, Kennerly and her staff were frantically trying to open up additional ballot drop-off sites on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation after being criticized for not offering more than two drop-off sites in the county. 

While we wait for things to get rolling in earnest, please click through and enjoy this Zoom livestream of Gallatin County election officials calmly counting ballots.

Welcome. Today’s the big day. Thanks for joining us.

Here at MTFP we’re firing up the laptops and charging up our phones for an evening of blanket coverage of this most anticipated of elections.

Starting when the polls close at 8 p.m., we’ll have live AP results right here on the homepage, where you can track results in Montana’s statewide races, the presidential contest, ballot initiatives and state legislative races. No one anywhere will have faster election results.

We’ll also be providing live updates from reporters Justin Franz in Kalispell, Johnathan Hettinger in Bozeman, Alex Sakariassen in Hamilton, Eric Dietrich in Helena, Jenn Rowell in Great Falls, Chris Aadland in Stillwater County, and our partners with Montana Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings, Butte, Missoula and Crow Agency. They’ll be providing live updates and insight as this anything-but-average election unfolds.

So settle in and get comfortable. It’s gonna be a night.

After starting professional life covering music for the Houston (Texas) Press in his hometown, Brad has worked as an editor at the Texas Observer in Austin and the Missoula (Montana) Independent. Along the way he's freelanced for publications including High Country News and the Los Angeles Review of Books.