As of this morning, 264,118 absentee ballots have been turned in, either via mail or at election offices/precincts. At 73.8%, the return rate is considerably lower than 2014, but fewer ballots were mailed out in that election. Overall absentee ballots have exceeded midterm numbers by 17%, and there is still plenty of time today to turn them in. We will probably get another update from the state in the afternoon. Lewis and Clark County has cast almost 32% more mail-ins than in the midterm, Gallatin 30%, Flathead 27%, Missoula 22%, and Yellowstone, the largest (by population), just 5% more.
We anticipate between 380,000 and 415,000 ballots will be cast in total (in person and via absentee) if absentee votes make up 70% of the vote and they continue to be returned at a steady clip today. Expect lower if not.
Update: by this point in 2016, over 307,000 absentees had been received by the SOS. Another 30,000 were returned between their noon report during the general election and the close of polls. Assuming a similar burst, we could see another 25-26,000 absentees. I’m skeptical it will be THAT high, but it helps give us an upper limit on outstanding mail-ins.