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Politics

Can You Change Your Absentee Vote if a Candidate Body-Slams a Guy?

Not in Montana you can't.

by Mike Pearl
24 May 2017, 11:00pm

Photo of Greg Gianforte by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

The 2017 special election for Montana's single congressional district got weird Wednesday night when the Republican in the race, Greg Gianforte, hulked out during an interview with the Guardian's Ben Jacobs and "body slammed" the reporter, breaking his glasses. Gianforte, who had a slight lead in the final polls, has been charged with misdemeanor assault. But the catch is that many Montanans already voted by mail—what if Gianforte's act of violence changed their mind?

Reports early Thursday suggested that a few voters had begun calling the Montana Secretary of State's office asking if they can go with Democrat Rob Quist instead. But As Derek J. Oestreicher, a representative of the Secretary of State's office explained to The Missoulian, you have "voted" in Montana when your county's election office receives your vote. That means it's a done deal—if you go to your polling place and vote in person, that's double voting, which is illegal.

Estimates vary on how many absentee ballots there were. The New York Times reported that half of Montana's voters had voted early. Oestreicher later told ThinkProgress that number was more like 37 percent.

Most states are like Montana in this regard—once you mail your ballot, it's impossible to change it. In November 2016, Donald Trump claimed that six states allowed votes to be changed. But of course, tweets from guy who is now president do not have a reputation for precision.

According to an investigation last year from Business Insider, only three states allow it: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. (Some towns in Connecticut will also let you change your vote, but state officials won't help you.)

However, Montana is one of 13 states (along with Washington, DC) where voters can register on Election Day. That means anyone who suddenly gets the urge to go to the polls can make their voice heard. A last-minute surge in turnout could make a difference—as of last month, voter turnout for this election was expected to be low. "I think we'll be lucky to get 60 percent," said Regina Plettenberg, president of the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders in an interview with Montana Public Radio.

Interest in the election may be a little higher now.

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