“Stop Voter Suppression”
“Demand Election Integrity”
“Act Now to Protect Our Elections”
Concerned voters braved the gloomy Fall weather to demonstrate in front of the courthouse annex today. The demand? Remove election duties from the Clerk and Recorder.
Since her election, Sandra Merchant has created chaos in Cascade County. After making significant errors in multiple elections, Merchant is now being sued (in her official capacity as Clerk and Recorder). Aggrieved parties in both the Westside Flood District and Fort Shaw Irrigation District elections are taking Merchant to court, and Cascade County taxpayers are footing the bill for Merchant’s defense. After both the county attorney and the Montana Association of Counties (MACO) declined to represent Merchant, a private attorney out of Bozeman was hired to provide her defense. Merchant’s incompetence was even enough for a judge to order a monitor for the Library Levy to assure the election was run lawfully.
Whether through ignorance or intentional maleficence, Sandra Merchant has shown that she is incapable of running accurate, fair, and transparent elections. Luckily, a solution to the Merchant problem is available. The County Commission has the legal authority to remove election duties from the Clerk and Recorder. Joe Briggs has long supported this plan, even offering a provision that will assure a County Commissioner who is up for election will not be involved in the supervision of the Election Administrator. This forward-thinking approach removes partisanship from election administration while providing increased accountability by making the Election Administrator a county employee. This is the measure protestors were out supporting today.
Calls to remove election duties from Sandra Merchant are expected to grow in the coming weeks. With a city election on the horizon, it appears Merchant has again waited until the very last moment to get ballots in the mail- a move that likely disenfranchises military voters, among others.
The citizen group calling themselves the Election Protection Committee (EPC) has been monitoring Merchant’s errors and has endorsed Commissioner Brigg’s proposal to remove election administration from the Clerk and Recorder. EPC member, Jane Weber, attended the demonstration with about 25 other voters. Weber explained, “We’re out here today to defend our right to vote. If we don’t have fair, accurate, and transparent elections, we don’t have a Democracy.”
A small group of Pro-Merchant protestors were also present. One was heard to remark that she’s been “wanting election integrity since 2020” seemingly referring to the same conspiracy theory that led to the January 6, 2020, attack on the United States Capitol. Asked if she had any response to this claim, Weber stated, “It is near impossible to reason with unreasonable people.”
In previous elections, the EPC tracked and monitored ballot errors and discovered such mistakes as voters receiving duplicate ballots, ballots sent to incorrect addresses, and ballots whose outer envelope did not match the name on the inner security envelope. The Election Protection Committee is again asking voters to contact them to report errors on their ballot. Information regarding ballot errors can be sent to the group at [email protected] .
The group notes that they will continue to monitor such errors and hold Sandra Merchant accountable until safe and secure elections are restored in Cascade County.