Yellowstone County finished counting ballots for the Nov. 6 General Election about 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 7. The counting started early on Election Day and the county’s tabulator machines worked properly, but the sheer volume — 140,000 ballot sheets — resulted in an all-day, all-night and most-of-the-second-day work shift with no sleep for election officials doing this very important job.

Meanwhile in Gallatin and Missoula counties, tabulator machines broke down, further delaying their election results. Gallatin County elections workers toiled for 38 consecutive hours to finish counting ballots and the county had to pay $16,000 in overtime. In Missoula, the November count ran for 40 straight hours.

Election results could have been available earlier — if the ballot prep (opening envelops, unfolding ballots and stacking them in secure boxes in locked vaults) started earlier. Present Montana law says counting cannot commence until Election Day and that absentee ballots cannot be opened, unfolded and stacked for counting until the day before Election Day.

Pat Bellinghausen  |  Billings Gazette