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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Cascade County elections will proceed as scheduled, elections official says

Election sign reading 'polling place' on a door at a Missoula polling place.
Josh Burnham
Montana Public Radio

After the Cascade County clerk and recorder called into question the feasibility of upcoming elections last week, the administrator now says the elections will be held on their scheduled dates.

Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant was scheduled to outline her plan for upcoming special elections in a meeting with county commissioners this week. But county attorney Josh Racki told MTPR the meeting has been pushed to next week at the earliest because Merchant is sick.

In emails sent to public schools and the library last week, Merchant said it would be “pretty much impossible” for her office to be prepared for the May 2 school board election and the June 6 mill levy for the Great Falls Public Library. She cited the closure of a mail-sorting business in Great Falls and short staffing as two reasons for the difficulty.

Now, Merchant says the elections will not be delayed.

However, attorney Josh Racki says board elections for Great Falls Public Schools and the Sun River Valley School District will not be mail-ballot elections as originally requested by the schools.

“At this point, Sandra has said that the absentee ballots have to go out by statute, so they will go out. The people who are not on the absentee list at this point, she has said, will vote at the polls,” Racki said.

Absentee ballots for the school elections are scheduled to be mailed on April 17, according to the county website. In an email, Merchant says her office is still working with the Great Falls Public Library to determine the best method to hold its mill levy election.

Merchant said her office is “working diligently” to resolve the mail-sorting issue, but she expects it will take time to find a solution. Merchant added,“Nothing is more important to me than arranging fair and lawful elections for the citizens of Cascade County.”

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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