TL,DR? Scroll to the bottom and check out the video breakdown of the shitshow.
Another day, another massive error by Cascade County Clerk and Recorder, Sandra Merchant.
Merchant’s antics today have arguably outpaced her mistakes of the past. But before we get into that, dear reader, here’s a quick and dirty civics lesson.
Election results must be accepted and finalized in a process called a “canvas.” You may recall that the Great Falls Public School Board’s canvas of that election showed significant errors by Merchant, including precincts that didn’t balance. Although the School Board acknowledged these errors, they ultimately decided to accept the canvas, thus solidifying the results of the election.
Fast forward to the Great Falls Municipal Election. The Election Protection Committee (EPC) reported a number of errors with this election, including double ballots which could be voted twice, and voters receiving ballots for the Great Falls election despite not living in the city. Over 100 voters were turned away at the Expo Park on election day. Then, midway through the day, a ballot box was delivered to the Expo Park, and over 100 ballots were accepted at that location. The entire day was a debacle, once again caused by Merchant’s failure to communicate with the press and the community.
That brings us to today, Monday, November 20, 2023. Today Sandra Merchant attempted to hold the canvas for the Great Falls Municipal Election. The problem? Merchant failed to provide the required 48-hours notice to the public. And thus the shitshow began. Merchant scheduled the canvas for 3:00 today, despite ignoring the rules for notifying the public. When the Election Protection Committee (EPC) learned of this meeting, volunteers quickly assembled at the County Commission Chambers.
Citizens were left waiting as the hour drew near and neither Commissioner Rae Grulkowski nor Sandra Merchant were anywhere to be found. Less than an hour before the meeting was scheduled to begin, it was canceled.
The EPC soon learned the reason behind the cancellation. Commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson refused to attend the meeting. The Commissioners knew that the required 48-hours public notice had not been provided. Rather than attend a potentially unlawful meeting, Briggs and Larson refused to attend. Thus, Commissioner Grulkowski was without the necessary numbers to hold a quorum, and the canvas was not held.
Merchant has now rescheduled the canvas for Wednesday, November 22, 2023. Despite the fact that scheduling a public meeting the day before Thanksgiving is not serving the public’s interest, it’s also, literally, too late. Per the Secretary of States’ “Municipal Primary and General Election Calendar” Merchant must conduct the canvas on or before November 21, 2023. There is no way for Merchant to meet this deadline AND provide the required 48-hours notice.
Once again, Merchant has failed to perform even the most basic functions of her job duties. First, Merchant failed to schedule the canvas before the November 21, 2023 deadline. Then, Merchant attempted to hold a potentially unlawful meeting to accept the canvas, without providing the proper public notice. Merchant has blamed others for her mistakes at every turn.
Incorrect information printed in the newspaper? Blame the Tribune, even though Merchant is ultimately responsible for review of printed materials.
Duplicate ballots? Blame the printer, even though Merchant’s procrastination kept the ballots from being printed in-house.
Sending ballots to deceased voters? Blame the previous Clerk and Recorder even though a basic understanding of chronological time shows that pulling the deceased list was, and has been, Merchant’s responsibility since January 1, 2023.
However, Merchant cannot blame today’s error on anyone but herself. Despite her campaign platform of “transparency” it was Merchant herself who failed to notify the public, who attempted to hold a public meeting WITHOUT the public’s knowledge, and failed to conduct the canvas before the required deadline.
Wondering who to blame for all these errors, Ms. Merchant? We suggest you look in the mirror.
Check out Jasmine’s video breakdown here: