Yesterday, a press conference was held to announce the creation of the Election Protection Committee. This citizen group was created in response to the ineptitude of Sandra Merchant and the chaos happening within the Cascade County Clerk and Recorder’s office. Committee members Jane Weber and Pete Fontana delivered a public statement to the press. Their statements are transcribed below:
Jane Weber: Thank you for joining us today. I’m here with Pete Fontana.
We are here because elections in Cascade County are threatened.
The Cascade County Clerk and Recorder is not competent to do her job. She was recruited by the county’s new County Commissioner, Rae Grulkowski, to file for office. She won and now she’s in a panic because she does not know how to run an election.
Here is what we know:
Sandra Merchant presented her elections plan on March 31 st to more than 150 voters and the county commissioners; her plan was incomplete and lacked specificity. It created more questions than answers for voters. Even one commissioner questioned her rationale.
Sandra Merchant, when asked by one county commissioner and the Superintendent of School District 1, could not tell them what a poll election will cost those entities.
Sandra Merchant denied the Great Falls Public Schools from holding their traditional all-mail ballot election when mail balloting has successfully been done for decades!
Remember, elections for special districts like the School Districts, Irrigation Districts, Flood Districts or Library that are conducted by the county Elections Office must be paid for by the requesting entity. Yet, these entities are being forced to pay for a more expensive poll election when an all-mail ballot election has successfully worked for many years.
Sandra Merchant continually blames the Secretary of State’s new ElectMontana software for delays or problems in her office. When other counties were questioned about the software, we found their elections are moving forward on time without any major hitches. Can’t Sandra Merchant learn the system like everyone else?
Sandra Merchant hides behind County Commissioner, Rae Grulkowski, who attends almost every meeting with the Elections Official. You may recall, Commissioner Grulkowski attempted to stop voters from questioning Sandra Merchant at that March 31 st meeting by continually considering their question “not relevant.” The voters shouted her down several times so the voter’s questions could be asked.
Sandra Merchant allows her supporters to spread disinformation about offers made by the previous Election official to provide transitional training prior to Ms. Merchant’s swearing into office. THEN, when in office, Ms. Merchant NEVER ASKED FOR TRAINING from the Elections Office deputy until two days before she accepted a reassignment to another county Department.
Sandra Merchant continually confuses voters by flipflopping on her methodology – look at today! The required Public Test of the vote tabulator machine was originally scheduled for today, now it’s been moved to April 25 th . How did you find out? Certainly, not from the media, because Sandra Merchant never notified anyone, she merely posted it on the website.
Sandra Merchant couldn’t even pick up the phone until TODAY and call the Great Falls Public School Superintendent to notify him of the date change when his election is FIRST UP. When asked at county commission meeting, Commissioner Grulkowski said voters need to continually check the Election website for changes. With conditions constantly changing, how often must we do that, every hour?
Sandra Merchant, even after the Great Falls Public School District offered to help her, recruits election deniers to volunteer in the Election office. People who signed a 2022 petition proclaiming their rejection of the standing state and county election procedures. Specifically, those petition signers want to:
– ban all electronic voting equipment (excludes Automark machines)
– ban mail-in ballots except for overseas military, disabled or other qualified persons
– ballot turn in on election day only, with one day counting
– clean voter roles by requiring all qualified County residents to re-register”
AND THEN, Sandra Merchant allows those election deniers to work in the election office unsupervised. Why isn’t Sandra Merchant contacting the over 100 election judges to help in the election office? Election judges are trained and sworn to comply with election procedures, they are not elections deniers who reject the current election procedures.
Sandra Merchant hired a woman for her Election Office who was evicted from the 2020 November poll election by a county deputy attorney and deputy sheriff – evicted from this very hall – for violating poll watcher policies. Yes. She filmed the vote tabulator machine ON election day, a clear violation. That woman’s name is Deveraux Beatrice Biddick. She is second in command in the Election Office now. And, oh yes, she also signed that same petition renouncing current state and county election policies stated above. How does that happen?
Sandra Merchant attempted to change the June date for the library levy special election, a date that iscritically important if our library is to continue without reduced services.
And try to contact the Election Office?
Sandra Merchant does not accept or return telephone calls.
Sandra Merchant does not respond to emails.
THIS, FROM A WOMAN WHO CAMPAIGNED on the PROMISE OF TRANSPARENCY IN THE ELECTIONS OFFICE.
Where is the transparency????
How can the voters TRUST Ms. Merchant and her Election Office operations?
And now, let me turn the microphone over to Pete Fontana.
We are here today because a group of concerned citizens has banded together to demand accountability in the Elections Office. We are pleased to announce the creation of the ELECTION PROTECTION COMMITTEE, a citizen group that will continue to investigate, monitor, and demand transparency from Sandra Merchant.
Our goal is simple – to protect free and fair elections in Cascade County and to demand the resignation of Sandra Merchant.
The Election Protection Committee has already sent numerous requests for information to the County. We will continue to share our findings with the media and the public. Further, we are examining the legal recourse available to voters of Cascade County. We are committed to fighting voter suppression and defending our Democracy.
We will not allow Sandra Merchant to disenfranchise Cascade County voters.
How can you get involved?
1. If you are not already receiving information, sign up to receive alerts about operations and changes made in the Elections Office – like the date of the Public Test.
2. Wear our buttons in public and talk to friends and relatives about the irregularities occurring in the Elections Office.
3. Attend events, like the Public Test, so you are informed.
4. Sign up to receive Election Judge training on April 26 and April 28 training by stopping by the Election Office. We need GOOD, HONORABLE people to serve as judges at the upcoming poll elections.
5. Register with the Election Office to be a poll watcher and monitor the May 2 nd election in this very building.