If you’ve been to any of the recent meetings about election problems in Sandra Merchant’s office, you may have noticed a tall woman with shoulder-length, blond hair domineering discussions, even interrupting Sandra Merchant to “help explain and clarify” the Clerk and Recorder’s responses to questions. At the April 25 test of the vote counting equipment, she was confronted by a person in the audience who asked, “Who are you?” She responded that she is an election judge. . .as though that makes her an expert on Montana election law.
Well, her name is Julie Bass. She is not a lawyer, though she appears to think she is. She has no direct experience administering elections in Montana, though that doesn’t stop her from telling you the rules. Her experience as an election judge does not qualify or differentiate her from the dozens of other election judges in the county. Her only expertise in elections, as far as we can tell, comes from her attendance at and participation in local election denier groups. And now, it seems, she thinks she is running the Clerk and Recorder’s office.
Bass was one of the lead organizers of the election denier group that spent a year harassing Rina Fontana Moore and her staff. Their unhinged behavior included following staff to their vehicles and taking pictures of them. However, when confronted with members of the public peacefully observing Merchant and her volunteers, Bass claims folks are being unkind.
At Merchant’s notoriously pedestrian public presentation, Bass defended Merchant and condemned local citizens demanding accountability. Bass and her ilk now claim the Election Protection Committee is engaging in the same type of intimidation tactics and election denial her group promoted in 2022.
Bass, Merchant, and County Commissioner Rae Grulkowski believed wholeheartedly in the claims that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen. They blindly accepted the Fox News lies about election security. Some of them attended training by election conspiracy ring-leader Mike Lindell.
And now the facts about the election deniers conspiracy theories are in. Fox News took a major hit when Dominion won their defamation lawsuit in court. Fox has since had to admit their election fraud claims were lies. They’re paying for those lies to the tune of $787.5 million. Unfortunately for Great Falls, none of that matters to Bass, Grukowlski, and the far-right Pachyderm Club. They continue promoting wacky conspiracy theories and probably will continue to do so until the day they die. They used these lies to elect Sandra Merchant, whose incompetence is already costing Cascade County.
Whereas Bass’s inane conspiracy theories have been proven to be based purely in fiction, the Election Protection Committee’s claims are supported by truth and fact.
Fact: Superintendent Tom Moore reported receiving two different totals for the May 2, 2023 school board election. The difference between the numbers provided by the Election Administrator and those provided by the County Attorney were 75 votes.
Fact: Voters reported receiving MULTIPLE ballots for the School Board Election. Two precincts with over 400 voters didn’t receive absentee ballots whatsoever. On election day, voters were turned away because Sandra Merchant opened the polls late.
Fact: Merchant’s glaring errors were significant enough to convince a judge to appoint an Election Monitor to protect the integrity of the library levy.
Fact: Voters in both the Fort Shaw Irrigation District and West Great Falls Flood and Drainage Control District have file a lawsuit due to Merchant’s errors. Their attorney described the election as “a complete failure.” Read excerpts from his scathing letter here:
So as Julie Bass continues to hold court at any meeting regarding elections, we wonder, is she also assuming responsibility for these numerous errors? Bass is neither a county employee nor an elected official, though she has certainly inserted herself as a public figure. Why, then, is she being allowed to speak on behalf of Merchant? Why are members of the public having their questions for Merchant intercepted by an election denier with no authorization to speak on behalf of the county? And at what point do Cascade County officials have an obligation to stop the takeover of the Elections office by a fringe group of conspiracy theorists?