Montana: “Cascade County Elections Office said mail ballots may not be feasible; five elections on horizon”

Daily Montanan:

Mail-in ballots may be off the table for upcoming local elections in Cascade County as the Elections Office scrambles under new leadership.

In January, the Secretary of State’s Office approved Cascade County’s mail ballot election plan. However, on March 10, the county elections officer said a poll election would be held instead.

The change caused confusion for several local school districts and the library mill levy slated to be on the ballot, and the path forward still is unclear. The Elections Office said it will be giving a presentation on the plan next week but did not elaborate further.

Friday, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, said voters need mail ballots.

“The clerk’s got to figure that out,” Fitzpatrick said Friday.

Newly elected Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant did not respond to a message left with her office on Thursday. The elections staff member said she would pass the request for an interview to Merchant. Friday, the Daily Montanan followed up, and the staff member said Merchant was not in the office.

The March 10 emails sent by Elections Officer Merchant to districts holding upcoming elections said mail-in ballots would not be “administratively feasible,” as first reported in The Electric. She said some elections would be conducted as poll elections and others potentially postponed.

Typically, more than 80% of voters in the county mail their ballots in, as reflected in data from elections from 2000 to 2018 from the Secretary of State’s Office….

Merchant, a local businesswoman, won the Clerk and Recorder’s race in November after a hand recount by less than 40 votes against the veteran Moore. Several sources said Merchant was active in an election integrity group before assuming office.

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