Good morning from the Chronicle newsroom and welcome to Election Day 2016.
Activity at the Gallatin County Courthouse is already picking up as of 8:30, with the drive-up absentee ballot tents accepting drop-offs.
Gallatin County's absentee ballot return rate is at 76.4 percent as of this morning. That means 33,270 ballots out of the 43,536 mailed have been returned, with more coming in this morning and throughout the day.
From the police scanner: Someone wants police to come to the polling place at the Gallatin County fairgrounds for a report of people acting as "knuckleheads."
G'morning folks, Chronicle reporter Troy Carter here checking in at the office before heading out on the town to make polling observations.
One of the races I'll be watching tonight is the House District 65 race between incumbent Democrat Chris Pope and Republican newcomer Jon Knokey.
Knokey's fundraising was notable in that it allowed him to fund a robust campaign that included TV ads, which is pretty good (and expensive) in a state House race.
However, the primary election indicated that the district still favors a Democrat.
But turnout. The line at the HD 65 table is the longest at the fairgrounds polling place in Bozeman, according to an unconfirmed report by an observer at that location.
I also got a tip that someone left flowers with the Jeannette Rankin statue at the Hawthorne school in Bozeman. If you see it send us a photo.
Unconfirmed: Republican gubernatorial candidate is at the fairgrounds polling place voting in Bozeman right now.
Reporter Troy Carter will be on his way down to the polls in a few minutes here to check in — now that he's properly fueled with Election Day doughnuts.
A man holding a bunch of sage and a Denise Juneau for congress sign at 19th and Main near a casino with a large Zinke sign in the yard.
At the fairgrounds, I spoke with Democratic state Rep. Tom Woods who is working until 5 p.m. as an election observer. He said the good weather was good for Democratic turnout. Really? Dems don't have cars, he said.
HD 65 Republican challenger Jon Knokey was campaigning at the fairgrounds with GOP campaign staffer Jace Holyoak. Knokey needs the two relatively rural precincts to turnout high and to lose by a narrow margin in the urban precinct. Dems expecting incumbent Chris Pope to win re-election.
Knokey, a John Deere manager and former Montana State University football player who authored a book on former President Teddy Roosevelt, was the political newcomer in the race but led Pope by a large margin in fundraising. The Republican's pre-election financial reporting showed him taking in a total of $19,813 in campaign contributions. Pope's reporting showed $11,556 in contributions.
Supporters of CI-116, Marsy's Law for Montana will gather tonight in Bozeman to watch election results. The celebration will be attended by Marsy's Law founder Dr. Henry Nicholas. Blackbird Kitchen, 140 E Main Street, Bozdeman. Begins at 6:30 p.m.
Regarding Bozeman's HD 65 -- Democrat Chris Pope received a 7 percent rating by the National Rifle Association, Republican Jon Knokey received a 57 percent rating.
The SW Montana race to watch is in Livingston where Demos and Repubs are putting resources into HD 60, seat held by conservative Republican Debra Lamm but could be flipped by Dem challenger Laurie Bishop.
It's also going to be really interesting to see the results of the 3-way race to replace state Rep. Kathleen Williams in east Bozeman HD 61. Three solid candidates. Libertarian Francis Wendt raised no money.
Absentee ballot returns are up to 84.6 percent in Gallatin County, according to Montana Secretary of State. 37,364 out of 44,150 returned.