Vote early? Or vote informed?

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Tuesday is Election Day in Montana’s primary, an event which all citizens should welcome as an opportunity to exercise their most important responsibility in a free society.

Indeed, because of its importance, many states have made it as easy as possible to vote, including offering voters the convenience of casting their ballots early.

The downside of early voting, however, is apparent this year in the Flathead County commissioner race, where new information about several of the candidates surfaced during the last 10 days before the election.

Sure, it’s great to have the ability to cast mail-in ballots that were sent out starting May 7. But it’s not worth throwing away your vote by casting a ballot before all the facts are known, before all the forums are held, before all the competition even really starts in earnest.

By mid-May, many campaigns with limited budgets are just starting to ramp up and get their messages out. It seems that candidates in two contested races for the Supreme Court, for instance, have only recently begun advertising to make themselves known.

Our interest is for voters to make themselves as full informed as possible before they vote.

And that can be a tall order when Republicans will be considering five candidates in one county commissioner race, and seven candidates in an unusual second county commissioner race that was prompted by the death of Commissioner Jim Dupont in March. (Democrats in both races are unopposed.)

Now, for those of you who did wait for their chance to vote the old-fashioned way — at your local precinct polling place — just a reminder that all county voters can cast votes on both of the commissioner races, regardless of the district the elected commissioners will represent.

Here are some of the other highlights you can expect as well:

All voters will get to vote in two contested local District Court races. One will see both candidates advance to the fall ballot, but the race for Department 2 will decide which two of the three candidates get to compete in November.

Republican voters will also be deciding the outcome of a gubernatorial primary race that has seven candidates. And Democrats will be choosing from a field of seven candidates for Montana’s lone congressional seat.

The Republican secretary-of-state primary has four candidates, and there are also three contested state Senate races and one contested state House race for GOP voters to decide. Democratic voters locally will decide a race in House District 4 with two candidates.

Overall, it’s a complicated lineup that warrants a full examination of a multitude of candidates. Hopefully, voters — both early and late — have done their due diligence and will choose wisely.

Our future depends upon it.  

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