The 2022 general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8, and as absentee ballots have already gone out, odds are that scores of Montanans are already busy filling in their votes. If you’re not registered yet, are planning to vote at the polls, or are still confused about what election laws may or may not be in effect right now, Montana Free Press has endeavored to make things a little easier with our 2022 Election Guide. And since the legal landscape has been such a moving target this year, we’re taking the added step of posting answers to some basic questions right here to help make sure everyone has the most up-to-date information at their fingertips.

WHEN ARE THE 2022 ELECTIONS IN MONTANA?

Montana’s 2022 general election is scheduled for Nov. 8. Polls open at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m. Note: Polls in precincts with fewer than 400 registered voters aren’t required to open until noon, so check with your county election office about timing in those locations.

DO I NEED TO BE REGISTERED TO VOTE?

Yes, you do.

HOW DO I DO THAT?

First off, go to the Montana secretary of state’s My Voter Page and make sure you aren’t registered already. If you aren’t, you can stop by your county election office any time during regular business hours to pick up an application. After you’ve filled it out, you’ll need to get it back to your county election office in person as the deadline for mailing in registration applications has passed. At the election office, you’ll have to provide a photo ID or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you happen to be applying for a Montana driver’s license or identification card before the election, you can register to vote at the same time.

CAN I REGISTER TO VOTE ON ELECTION DAY?

That’s one of the million-dollar questions this year. As of Sept. 30, yes.

Montana had allowed Election Day voter registration since 2006, but a new law passed by the Legislature last year ended that practice. That law was the subject of lengthy litigation, but on Sept. 30, a district court judge issued a final ruling in the case, declaring the law unconstitutional. So, in short: Yes you can register to vote at your county election office any time on Election Day, Nov. 8, provided you’re in line by 8 p.m.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY REGISTRATION IS ACCURATE AND CURRENT?

Go to the Montana secretary of state’s My Voter Page and enter your first name, last name and date of birth. The page will list your voting status, legislative House and Senate districts, and the location of your polling place. There’s even a map with directions.

WHAT TYPE OF ID CAN I USE?

This is another timely question. Last year, the Legislature revised the types of photo identification voters are required to present when registering and casting their ballots. The Yellowstone County District Court on Sept. 30 overturned those changes, declaring the law that implemented them to be unconstitutional. The current acceptable forms of identification if you’re voting at the polls include a current Montana driver’s license, state-issued photo ID, tribal or military photo ID, a U.S. passport or a student ID. If you don’t have a photo ID, you can use a utility bill, a bank statement, a voter confirmation card or any other government document that shows your name and address.

IF I’M MAILING MY BALLOT, HOW DO I MAKE SURE IT’S RECEIVED?

You can track your ballot using the My Voter Page, which will tell you when the county election office receives it.

CAN’T I JUST VOTE ONLINE?

Nope, that’s not an option in Montana.

ARE THERE ANY SITUATIONS WHERE I’M NOT ELIGIBLE TO VOTE?

According to state law, you can’t vote if you’ll be under 18 on Election Day, are not a U.S. citizen, or have lived in Montana less than 30 days. Convicted felons who are currently incarcerated in a penal facility and people whom judges have ruled to be of unsound mind are also ineligible to vote. Otherwise, you’re good to go.

I HAVE A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER WHO ISN’T ABLE TO DROP OFF THEIR BALLOT. CAN I DO IT FOR THEM?

Yes, you can. While the Montana Legislature did make some changes to ballot collection laws in 2021, those changes only affected paid ballot collection, and those changes aren’t currently in effect anyway due to the Yellowstone County District Court’s Sept. 30 ruling. 

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Alex Sakariassen is a 2008 graduate of the University of Montana's School of Journalism, where he worked for four years at the Montana Kaimin student newspaper and cut his journalistic teeth as a paid news intern for the Choteau Acantha for two summers. After obtaining his bachelor's degree in journalism and history, Sakariassen spent nearly 10 years covering environmental issues and state and federal politics for the alternative newsweekly Missoula Independent. He transitioned into freelance journalism following the Indy's abrupt shuttering in September 2018, writing in-depth features, breaking...