- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Latest on Election Day in Montana (all times local):

2 a.m.

Montana voters have approved a ballot initiative to expand medical marijuana and re-open pot dispensaries.

The initiative will undo many of the restrictions imposed on the state’s medical marijuana program by a 2011 state law. The law, which restricted marijuana providers to a maximum of three patients, was upheld by the state Supreme Court earlier this year and took effect in August.

The law forced the closure of dispensaries across the state and left thousands of registered users without a legal way to access the drug.

Under Initiative 182, marijuana dispensaries will reopen and doctors will be able to certify more than 25 medical marijuana patients a year without being flagged by the state Board of Medical Examiners.

Post-traumatic stress disorder would be added as a qualifying condition.


12:15 p.m.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has won a second term, defeating Democrat Larry Jent.

The Republican Fox cracked down on sex offenders by instituting compliance checks and revamped the sex offender registry during his first term.

He also has expanded an anti-drunken driving program started by then-Attorney General Steve Bullock and hired a prescription drug abuse prevention coordinator.

Jent is a former state legislator from Bozeman.


11:50 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana has won a second term by defeating Democratic challenger Denise Juneau.

The Whitefish Republican appealed to voters with a campaign that focused on increasing natural resources development and putting refugee resettlements on hold to ensure terrorists don’t slip into the U.S.

Voters were not convinced by Juneau’s criticism of Zinke for his strong ties to Donald Trump, nor her claims that Zinke’s national political ambitions detracted from his service to Montana citizens.

The 55-year-old Zinke was a Navy SEAL for 23 years and a state senator before winning his current seat in 2014.

His win keeps Montana’s only congressional seat in Republican hands, where it has been for nearly two decades.

Juneau was attempting to become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.


10:45 p.m.

Votes are still being counted in the Montana governor’s race with Democratic incumbent, Steve Bullock, in the lead over Republican challenger Greg Gianforte.

Late Tuesday night, too many votes were uncounted to call the race. Bullock was leading by about 10 percentage points in early returns.

Bullock is trying to hold on to his spot as one of 18 Democratic governors in the nation. He is seeking to continue the Democrats’ 12-year occupancy of the governor’s office in a conservative-leaning state.

Gianforte is making his first run for political office after selling the software company he founded to Oracle for $1.8 billion. He campaigned on bringing high-paying jobs to the state, cutting taxes and rolling back regulations that stymie businesses.

Libertarian Ted Dunlap is the third candidate in the race.


10:45 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke was leading in his re-election bid against Democratic challenger Denise Juneau with the votes still being tallied.

The first-term Republican incumbent entered the race considered the favorite. He faced a robust challenge from Democratic challenger Denise Juneau, the state superintendent of public instruction.

By late Tuesday night, too many votes were uncounted to call the race. Zinke was leading by 15 percentage points.

Zinke is attempting to maintain a two-decade Republican lock on the Treasure State’s sole seat in the U.S. House. The former Navy SEAL has emphasized his military experience, saying the fight against terrorism has reached the nation’s heartland.

Juneau says her eight years as the state’s school chief gave her the experience needed to become the first American Indian woman in Congress.

Libertarian Rick Breckenridge has been trailing in early returns.


8:10 p.m.

Cascade County is having problems with its vote-counting machine.

Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Rina Fontana Moore says officials can feed only 20 ballots to the machine at a time.

Moore tells the Great Falls Tribune that it will be a long night of counting votes.

She says repair workers have been called, but there is only one shop in the state that can fix it.


8 p.m.

Donald Trump has won Montana’s three electoral votes.

The Republican candidate defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton as expected Tuesday in a state that has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in every election for the past two decades.

The last Democrat to carry the state was Bill Clinton in 1992.

Trump visited Montana once before June’s primary election.

Clinton did not make an appearance in the state.


4 p.m.

Voter Carol Jacobsen says she became emotional while casting her vote for Hillary Clinton as the first female president candidate for president.

The 73-year-old retiree and her husband, 75-year-old Jim Jacobsen, called Clinton’s candidacy historic after voting Tuesday in Helena.

In East Helena, 61-year-old Mary Hele (HALE) says she wishes it had been a different woman on the ballot. She voted for Republican Donald Trump.

Hele said she has no respect for Clinton and called her “evil.”

Both Carol Jacobsen and Mary Hele say they believe it will take time for the ugliness of the presidential campaign to fade.


3 p.m.

Montana elections officials say more than 87 percent of voters who applied for absentee ballots had returned them in by mid-day Tuesday.

Election offices mailed out more than 351,600 absentee ballots and voters had returned nearly 307,000 returned by noon.

The returned absentee ballots accounted for 45 percent of the state’s nearly 688,000 registered voters.

Emily Dean is the spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office. She says 15,300 people registered to vote between October 12 and Monday, while another 2,253 completed same-day registration in the first four hours the polls were open Tuesday.


2:45 p.m.

A state employee says she voted to re-elect Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock as a check against conservative leaders in Montana.

Stacey Zyliak works for the Department of Commerce’s Community Development Division. The 44-year-old Zyliak says she thinks Democratic governors work better in Montana because they provide balance in the Republican-leaning state.

Bullock is in a tight race against Bozeman software entrepreneur Greg Gianforte, who is making his first run for office.

Gianforte is trying to break a trend of Montanans voting for a Democratic governor in the last three elections. Republicans have held majorities in the state House and Senate since the 2010 elections.


1:30 p.m.

The CEO of a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote science and the arts says she voted against U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke in part because he’s raised “phony” concerns about Syrian refugees becoming terrorists.

Terry Zee Lee of Billings let out a whoop as she left a polling station in Montana’s largest city after casting her ballot for Democrat Denise Juneau in the House.

Zinke, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, has made more thorough vetting of refugees a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.

Lee says Zinke’s trying to get voters stirred up about a non-issue.

Juneau could become the first American Indian woman elected to Congress, but Lee says neither gender nor race factored into her decision. The 68-year-old says Juneau has “proven her chops” during eight years as Montana’s public schools chief.


1 p.m.

Retired home builder Ernie Morrison says he’s voting for gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte in hopes that the Republican will help diversify Montana’s economy.

The 68-year-old Morrison spoke as he prepared to cast his ballot Tuesday at the Yellowstone County fairgrounds in Billings.

Morrison says three of his four children had to leave the state to find work because Montana’s economy is too heavily dependent on agriculture.

Gianforte is a former high-tech entrepreneur from Bozeman who’s argued that the state’s economy is starting to slide and needs to be revitalized.

Morrison says incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock has done little to stop young people leaving the state in hopes of finding better jobs.


11 a.m.

Voting got off to a bit of a late start at one Flathead County precinct because the wrong registration book was printed out.

Flathead County election officials said poll workers discovered the mistake soon after the polls opened at 7 a.m. The correct registration book arrived just before 8:30 a.m., allowing about 100 people in line at Precinct 5 to begin voting.

The Flathead Beacon reports some voters who showed up Tuesday morning had to leave for work and planned to try to vote later.

Emily Dean, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, says she had not heard of any other voting delays in the state.


8:45 a.m.

Voting got off to a bit of a late start at one Flathead County precinct because the wrong registration book was printed out.

Emily Dean, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office, says poll workers discovered the mistake right away and would have the updated registration book to the Precinct 5 polling place as soon as possible.

Voters sign the registration book before getting their ballots.

Dean said she had not heard of any other voting delays in the state.


9:30 p.m. Thursday

Montana voters head to the polls to choose their next president, governor, U.S. House representative and a range of down-ticket races.

Most polling stations across the state open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. They close at 8 p.m.

Even before the first poll opens, many Montana voters will have cast their absentee ballots. The Secretary of State’s office says more than 279,000 absentee ballots had been received as of Monday morning.

There are more than 684,000 registered voters in the state.

Along with the top-of-the-ticket races, Montana voters will decide on an open seat for the state Supreme Court, four competitive statewide offices, 125 legislative seats and four citizen initiatives.

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