Civic duty deadline fast approaching: Election today


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

The names of 12 people who would like to play a part in guiding our fair city, seen here from the Rims west of Billings, are on the city election ballot this year.

We’re not saying that anyone reading Last Best News hasn’t voted in the Billings city election yet, but not quite half of the voters who received mail-in ballots had returned them as of Monday.

The Yellowstone County Elections Office sent ballots to 54,436 voters in this election, and as of the end of the day Monday, 26,793 had been returned, for voter turnout so far of 49.2 percent.

If you haven’t sent in your ballot yet, it is too late to do so by mail. You’ll have to deliver it to the elections office in the Yellowstone County Courthouse at 217 N. 27th St.

The office will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, and people can turn in their ballots, fill out their ballots, or register to vote and then cast a ballot, until the office closes.

Because it’s a mail-in-ballot election, substantial numbers of ballots will be counted throughout the day, and shortly after 8 p.m., if all goes well, nearly complete results should be posted on the website of the elections office.

If you’re a little behind in your civic awareness, go to the city website to look at a map to find out what City Council ward you’re in and who’s running in your ward. Each of the city’s five wards has two council members, with one seat in each ward up for election every two years.

The mayor’s race is citywide, so every city voter will see the names of the mayoral candidates, Jeff Essmann and Bill Cole, on their ballots.

Here’s who’s running in the five ward:

Ward 1 — In this ward, where 3,268 ballots had been turned in as of Monday, according to the elections office, incumbent City Councilman Mike Yakawich is being challenged by Charlies Smillie.

Ward 2 — Frank Ewalt and Roger Gravgaard are vying to replace Angela Cimmino, who was term-limited out this year. Ballots turned in as of Monday: 4,798.

Ward 3 — Denise Joy and Nadja Brown are hoping to succeed term-limited Rich McFadden. Ballots turned in 4,984.

Ward 4 — Penny Ronning and George Blackard are competing to replace Al Swanson, who decided not to seek re-election. Ballots turned in: 7,924.

Ward 5 — Incumbent Shaun Brown is being challenged by Dennis Ulvestad. Ballots turned in: 5,819.

Also on the ballot of everyone in Yellowstone County is a request to raise the county’s public safety levy from 4 mills to 12 mills to support the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office. The increase would raise an additional $2.75 million a year in perpetuity.

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