(This is more of an opinion piece, but it does contain hard news data)

Around coffee shops and kitchen tables in Missoula, conversations always center around one question: ‘Why aren’t things getting better? Taxes are higher, home and apartment prices are higher and people feel helpless to stop it.’

There’s one very real problem, and you can see it in the mirror.

It’s you.

If you’re not voting in local, state and national elections, you’re in part to blame.

KGVO spoke to Missoula Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman on Tuesday night at the Elections Center about voter turnout, which, according to the numbers, was only about 27 percent.

“We always want to see as high of a turnout as we can,” said Seaman. “And so our ballot return rate earlier today, which is the number we sent to the number we received was at 36%. Even at that current report result, that's about on par with previous elections, so it matches previous elections, but in Missoula, we can do better.”

Yes, the primary only dealt with the races for mayor and two city council seats, but each vote makes a difference.

Seaman said the city council races in the primary sent two candidates to the general election.

“With this race, it's a vote for one,” he said. “So each candidate got one vote from each voter and the top two vote getters will go on to the general election. So for that race (Ward 1) currently, we've got Jennifer savage and Jane Van Fossen, who both are our two top vote getters who would be going on in November.”

In Ward 6, both Kristin Jordan and Tom Taylor will move on to the general election.

Seaman described what voters will see on the general election ballot in November.

“We'll have the races for the mayor, every city council seat, all three judges and then there's going to be two county wide issues, so everybody in Missoula County will get to vote on this,” he said. “There'll be two marijuana tax issues; one for medicinal and one for non medicinal. There will be no federal races this November but we’re already gearing up for the primary in June for next year.”

Out of 56,151 registered voters, only 15,158 cast ballots (as of 8:00 p.m.) meaning only 27 percent of registered voters bothered to pick up a pencil and fill in the dots. With mail-in voting, you don't need to visit the polling place, and even the postage is free.

So, if you really want things to change in Missoula, when November rolls around, take a look in the mirror, and then VOTE.

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