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Cascade County officials will again attempt to certify municipal election results

Cascade County courthouse.
Ellis Juhlin
Cascade County courthouse.

Cascade County commissioners Wednesday will attempt for a second time to certify municipal election results from earlier this month. County officials are sorting through ballot counting discrepancies.

Last week, commissioners declined to certify city elections in Great Falls, Cascade and Belt.

Cascade County commissioner Joe Briggs said election administrator Sandra Merchant was unable to explain why county vote tabulators counted dozens of ballots more than were accepted into the state database.

“Hopefully, it has to do with either this is not the correct report that I’m looking at or there was data not entered for the people who voted in person,” Briggs told MTPR. “I don’t know yet.”

Commissioners voted to postpone the canvass until Merchant was able to explain the discrepancy. Neither Merchant nor commission chair Rae Grulkowski responded to a request for comment.

It’s unclear if commissioners will vote to certify the elections Wednesday.

Cascade County has already blown past a two-week deadline imposed by state law. It’s not clear if the county will face any penalties.

Jasmine Taylor is a member of a citizen group monitoring the county elections office. The Election Protection Committee is pushing commissioners to remove election duties from Merchant’s office before next year’s federal elections.

“At that point, there’s going to be campaigns with millions of dollars involved,” Taylor said. “And, we’re going to be facing more lawsuits.”

The elections department is embroiled in two lawsuits from an election earlier this year alleging mistakes in ballot distribution.

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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