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Cascade County residents voice concerns about their election administrator

More than a dozen Cascade County residents said they were concerned and confused by the county election administrator’s handling of upcoming special elections at a public meeting Tuesday.

Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant earlier this month called into question her office’s ability to carry out upcoming elections for school boards, an irrigation district and a library levy.

Her office has since clarified that the May 2 school elections and June 6 library levy will proceed on schedule, though not with mail-in ballots as originally requested by the schools.

Cascade County resident Gerry Jennings said Merchant was not equipped to handle her role as election administrator.

“When people don’t have confidence in the election procedure, guess what? They don’t vote,” Jennings said. “How sad for Cascade County. In the opinion of many, Ms. Merchant should resign from office.”

Two residents expressed support for Merchant and called on locals to volunteer to staff polling places. Merchant has said voters will be able to participate in the elections at the polls or through absentee ballots.

Merchant is scheduled to present her plan for the elections on Friday, March 31 at 2 p.m. The public can attend in-person at the Expo Park Family Living Center or online through the Cascade County website.

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.
The Cascade County election administrator recently alerted the Great Falls Public Library and local school districts that her office faces obstacles to holding upcoming special elections as planned. It’s not clear when, if, or how upcoming school board and mill levy elections will proceed. Founder and reporter for online publication The Electric's Jenn Rowell has been tracking the story and shared her reporting with Montana Public Radio’s Austin Amestoy.

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.

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