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GFPS hosts news conference about trustee election concerns

Cascade County Elections Office
Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-21 11:07:17-04

GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Public Schools leaders offered a press conference to the media on Thursday to discuss upcoming changes in the School Trustee Election timeline.

Within that press conference Superintendent Tom Moore, Board Chair Gordon Johnson, and Brian Patrick, Director of Business Operations acknowledged the concerns of the public.

Here is the statement from Cascade County Clerk and Recorder, Sandra Merchant:

“Good morning, Tom. We are aware of the duplicate ballot problem and are in communication with the state Secretary of State's office to find out what the problem is. If someone receives a duplicate ballot, they can bring it into the office, and we will record it and inform the Secretary of State's office. The system will not allow anyone to vote twice. It will count the first ballot and void the second ballot. If someone doesn’t receive a ballot they can call or come into the office so we can check to see if it was sent. If they need a new ballot, they can come to the office for a replacement. One of the items on the fact sheet, that we sent out as a school district needs to be changed… Due to a medical event, we will have to cancel the Election Judge Training and will try to reschedule it for later this year.”

Tom Moore when to say, “The fact sheet that we sent out, earlier this week, said that on April 26-28, the Election Judge training would take place. It has since been canceled and rescheduled for a later date.”

Merchant concluded her statement:

“Let us know if we have any other questions we need to address.”

MTN News reported on duplicate ballots earlier this week. Click here to view the story.

Superintendent Moore also commented on how the ballots were folded upon mailing.

He said that he has received concern from the public about them not fitting in the “Secrecy Envelope.”

He advised voters to fold the ballot in half, and then in half again to fit inside the envelope.

Board Chair, Gordon Johnson acknowledged that since 2007, the Great Falls Public School District has been navigating elections the same way and that when change occurs, it can come with challenges.

“We are the canary in the mine shaft. We’re the first. Election taking place under this new office. We are anxious to see how this plays out.” He explained.

Sandra Merchant issued an estimated budget to the school district of $41,821.03, which did not include the cost of printing the ballots.

We asked the Director of Business Operations, Brian Patrick if the district has received any update on the estimated cost so far.

“She had a projection of around $41,000, but that was a couple of weeks ago, so we haven't received any updates.”

With the added cost to print ballots, the venue for election day, and the payment for Election Judges on Election Day, the projected cost could surpass the original budget.

If that were to occur, Brian Patrick told MTN News that the School District would have to front that bill.

Without Sandra Merchant issuing a budget update, it’s unclear if that added cost to the school district will occur.

District leaders at hopeful of a successful election under the law and are doing everything they can to remain in communication with Merchant and her team.

We also asked the panel if the morale was high with the candidates. Gordon Johnson took the wheel with the response saying, “We had an outstanding Candidate Forum hosted last night by Jenn Rowell and The Electric, and the city library. During that two-hour forum, at any time was concern expressed. “He went on to add, “Personally, I couldn’t help thinking if it were me, yes, I’d have a little concern that things come out smoothly. When I say smoothly, I mean the election itself.”

On April 25th at Exhibition Hall at the Montana Expo Park, Sandra Merchant will host an Election Machine Testing event that the public is invited to attend. The event starts at 2:00 pm.

The Election Machine Testing event was originally scheduled for April 12th and according to the Cascade County website, it was moved to April 25th at 2 pm. Here is the link:

Important remaining dates issued by Great Falls Public Schools:

· April 25, 2023 – 2 pm – Public testing of the tabulation machine will be held at the Exhibition Hall at the Montana Expo Park.

· April 26-28, 2023 – Election Judge Training – CANCELLED. No reschedule date was issued.

· May 1, 2023 – Last day to vote at the Elections Office. The office is open M-F 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.

· May 1, 2023 – Absentee ballots may be requested until noon the day before the election.

· May 2, 2023 – Election Day. Voting will take place at the Expo Park, Exhibition Hall from 7:00 am – 8:00 pm.

To contact the Elections Office, call 406-454-6803 with questions or concerns.

Questions or comments about this article/video? Click here to contact Ryan.


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