Biddick is Temporary Hire to Run Elections Office

Biddick is Temporary Hire to Run Elections Office

Back in February we wrote about our concern that newly elected Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant was hiring election denier political cronies who knew little about administering free elections. Those concerns were prompted by Merchant’s first hire, Devereaux Biddick, who apparently had little relevant experience or related education. Biddick was among the signers of a petition presenting a list of demands to the Cascade County Commissioners, which included requiring all voters in the county to “re-register,” banning all electronic voting, banning mail in ballots, and requiring all ballots be counted in one day. It was hard for us to imagine then, and now, that people who advocated these changes, most of which are either impractical or illegal, could be considered qualified to hold positions in the elections office.

We were also concerned that hiring Biddick was a precursor to more crony hiring. Since that time, two family members of Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci have been hired, along with others who had signed the denier petition. The below is from our article back in February.

“Is This Just the Beginning?

The fact is that recently elected County Commissioner Grulkowski and Clerk and Recorder Merchant, who have worked extensively together on their election denier mythology prior to being elected, have now offered a full-time permanent position to a friend of theirs who worked on the same effort. Biddick could be just the beginning of Sandra Merchant’s opportunities to move her cronies from the election denier crowd into government jobs at the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. The election supervisor job will be open thanks to Deroche’s resignation. In addition, the office has traditionally hired additional temporary employees to help during the election cycle.”

We began this article by pointing out that this kind of cronyism is illegal. Specifically, the Governmental Code of Fair Practices prohibits discrimination in government employment based on political beliefs. If any of the unsuccessful applicants for the position decided to file a complaint under that law and won, we would all get to pay for the insider dealing of our newly elected county officials. We’ll stay tuned and keep watching.”

Now, Biddick is being hired to run the elections office on a temporary basis while the County Commission is developing a position description and opening the position. She will also receive a 15% raise. We can see the need to have someone filling the position, but we can only hope that this time around the county will have an open and transparent process for filling the new election administrator position. See our full story from last February

Representative Steven Galloway Asserts Abortion Responsible for Labor Shortage . . .Huh?

Representative Steven Galloway Asserts Abortion Responsible for Labor Shortage . . .Huh?

Well, you probably already heard about the marathon County Commission meeting to take testimony about eliminating election administration from Clerk and Recorder, Sandra Merchant.  For the record, the Commission decided the right thing to do was have elections handled by someone who knows what they are doing, a novel thought! We’ll be publishing more on that later.

This post focuses on one of the more bizarre claims made by a Merchant supporter.  There were plenty of weird statements, but we think Representative Steven Galloway takes the cake.  After waiting almost to the end of public comment, Galloway rose to impart his wisdom to the Commissioners. Saying he is concerned about the county’s ability to find qualified applicants to administer elections, Galloway continued, “You can’t find employees, because the population is decreasing – through people not having kids, having abortions, we’ve got folks that are retiring.”

Check out the full article here:

So, let’s look a little more closely at Galloway’s assertion.  First, is the population of Montana really declining?  Well, the answer to that one is “No.”  Since 2010, Montana’s population grew 13.3%.  Of course Cascade County is not seeing the same growth as Gallatin, Missoula and Flathead Counties. During the same period, Cascade County grew 4.1%.

But the thing that really caught our attention was his assertion that abortion is a contributing cause to our labor shortage. In 2021, 1,728 abortions were performed in Montana. (FYI of those 73% were chemical). Montana’s population in 2021 was 1.104 million.  Don’t rush for your calculator, that amounts to 00.0015%.  Hardly a big enough number to cause an unemployment problem.  But facts coming from Merchant’s supporters were in short supply during the meeting.  

If Galloway really wants to do something about the labor market, he should get his head out of his right-wing play book and consider supporting reasonable immigration reform, rather than building a barbed wire fence around the country. 



Editor’s Choice: Mary Moe Talks GF Elections Crisis

Editor’s Choice: Mary Moe Talks GF Elections Crisis

Mary Sheehy Moe: Foxes and doggies and frogs – Oh my!

I struggle to find the apt analogy: The dog that finally catches the bus? The frog that doesn’t notice the water is boiling? The fox in the henhouse?

All of the above swirl around the drain of what’s happening to the most fundamental of our democratic rights — the right to vote. The nationwide wave of efforts to discourage voting laps even at Montana’s shores. On the pretext of securing election integrity, Republicans continually advance bills making it harder for some populations to vote — Native Americans, college students, the homebound, people who can’t get off work or find a way into town on two different days to register and then to vote.

But now we’re seeing a new twist — relentless efforts to discredit those who run our elections and replace them with election deniers. In 2022, election deniers comprised 80% of the candidates running nationwide in secretary of state races. Half won their primaries. Only 8% ultimately won the seat. Thankfully, most voters don’t want a Fox-fed fox in their most precious henhouse.

Unfortunately, there’s more. Since late 2020, 161 chief local elections officials (40%) in 11 Western states, Montana included, left their positions. The average experience levels in those 161 offices plummeted from approximately eight years to about one. With the cybersecurity, technology and legal issues surrounding elections, experience matters. As the cross-partisan political reform group Issue One cautions, inexperienced elections officers are “more prone to making small mistakes based on lack of knowledge — mistakes that, however innocuous, may be interpreted by hyper-partisans as malicious acts.”

What those 161 offices have now isn’t a fox in the henhouse, but a dog who caught the bus. This inexperience feeds the very narrative election deniers were yipping between howled lies before the newbies were elected. You need look no farther than Great Falls, to see how alarmingly this dog don’t hunt. Since being elected clerk and recorder in 2022, the election denier there has fouled up election after election.

In May, flood and irrigation district elections were so riddled with errors that both districts have turned to the courts for resolution.

The school board election was even worse — contradictory ballot instructions, misfolded ballots hampering ballot-counting, some voters receiving two ballots, others getting none, voters who work unable to vote because the polling place opened late, signature verification hindered by the fact that ballots were separated from envelopes … in short, so many gaffes that the court appointed an election monitor to oversee the next election.

Enter June’s library levy election: miscommunication on election dates, instructions so erroneous they had to be reprinted three times, multiple ballots to the same voter; no ballots for some voters … same-new, same-new.

And in the municipal elections last week, the nightmare continued. In addition to the now-usual dysfunction, inadequate prior notice had voters reporting to the usual polling place (the fairgrounds), where they were directed to the elections office, a small space on a busy downtown street with parking at a premium. Already disgruntled, voters plugged meters and queued up to enter a room whose very décor screamed partiality.

An enlarged Corinthians quote and a big ceramic elephant dominated the counter space. The walls were filled with pithy, pick-a-fight quotations incongruously placed next to more charitable tokens. My favorite: A large wooden cross adjacent to an even larger picture of a longhorn emblazoned with the words, “Do No Harm. But Take No Bull.” Jesus would be so pleased.

These are relatively small-potatoes local elections with low voter turnout. But 2024 is just around the corner. What’s that, Kermit? Water too warm?

Find the original article here:


Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Screws Up Another Election

Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Screws Up Another Election

On November 7 Cascade County voters struggled to vote in another confusing and poorly administered election. In the run up to the election, voters contacted a volunteer monitoring group, The Election Protection Committee, with a host of problems including some voters who did not receive their ballot in the mail and others who received numerous ballots in the mail. Surprisingly, some voters residing outside the city limits received ballots even though they were ineligible to vote in yesterday’s city election. Ironically, still others were denied a ballot because the Clerk and Recorder’s office could not decipher city boundary lines and erroneously did not believe they were city residents.

When election day arrived, voters discovered they could not obtain a ballot nor deposit their voted ballots at the fairgrounds. For decades, voters could obtain a ballot, replace a damaged or lost ballot or same-day register and vote at the fairgrounds for the municipal election – 108 people showed up yesterday to vote and were sent downtown to the Election Office. In addition, 180 voted ballots were not permitted to be deposited at the fairgrounds, instead voters were instructed to deposit their voted ballots at the Election Office. There, voters encountered difficulties finding parking and long lines because of the limited space. No one knows how many of the people who started their voting journey at the fairgrounds simply gave up and did not vote because of time constraints and inconvenience.  

It’s easy to say, “Well, election problems didn’t really matter because of the wide margins between the winning and losing candidates.” Only 73 votes separated Shannon Wilson and Eric Hinebauch in their race for city commission. Sandra Merchant’s foul ups could account for that difference. Just like the school board trustee election last spring, none of these candidates are likely to contest this election (even if they think there were significant errors) because of the potential cost to re-run an election.

That’s all well and good, but the next elections Merchant will oversee include all of the state-wide offices and a US Senate and Congressional Races. These campaigns will have the resources to challenge any problems they see. The truth is Sandra Merchant’s incompetence could determine the control of the US Senate in the next general election. And that is a scary thought.