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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Cascade County official says there won't be mail voting in the upcoming elections

Cascade County’s elections administrator was the subject of a withering line of questions and criticism Friday about upcoming local special elections.

Cascade County’s Clerk and Recorder Friday confirmed that May 2 school elections and a June 6 library levy vote will proceed on schedule, though not with mail-in ballots as originally requested. Voters will be able to participate at the polls or by absentee voting.

Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant says absentee ballots for the school election will be mailed out April 17. Absentee ballots for the library levy go out May 17.

Merchant told the packed house at Great Falls’ Expo Park Family Living Center that several factors prevent a mail-in election this spring. Those factors include a general staffing shortage and the closure of a local mail sorting business.

Those explanations didn’t satisfy Merchant’s critics during Friday’s two-hour long meeting. Some claimed the lack of a popular mail-in voting option is the result of her inadequate planning and strategizing, which are accusations she denied. Others called for Merchant’s removal from office. A clearly frustrated Great Falls Public School Superintendent says Merchant’s office was not responsive to his team’s overtures to help maintain a mail-in election.

Merchant had a handful of supporters in the audience, some of whom blamed her predecessor for not adequately preparing her for the job.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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