Great Falls Public Library Mill Levy election set for June 6

By: - March 23, 2023 4:13 pm

Photo illustration by Getty Images.

The Great Falls Public Library Mill Levy will be held on June 6 as originally planned, a library press release said Thursday.

Cascade County Elections Officer Sandra Merchant sent an email in March to the library saying she would prefer the election take place during the September primary election because of strains on the office like staffing shortages and the closure of a local ballot sorting company.

Merchant sent similar letters to school districts holding trustee elections in May, which caused confusion over the logistics of how the elections would be conducted.

Merchant has not determined whether the June 6 election will be “mail only” or a polling-place election with absentee ballots and early voting, the release said.

Poll election protocol, voting options:

-vote early in person
-receiving an absentee ballot in the mail, or
-voting on election day
Source: Great Falls Public Library

“Currently, the vast majority of voters in our area are already on the absentee list,” the release said. “These voters will receive a ballot in the mail, if the election is a polling place election.”

The release said Merchant is working with several mailing services to accommodate the mail ballot demand under the state-required deadlines.

Merchant said in a release earlier this week that the upcoming school elections, slated for May 2, would be “completed as directed by the Montana Secretary of State.” The Elections Office was slated to hold a meeting Thursday to explain the plan for the upcoming election, but it was canceled earlier this week as Merchant is sick.

Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki said the meeting would likely be rescheduled for next week.

“We are grateful to the public servants who make elections possible,” the library release read. “We encourage public officials in our county to continue to provide the public with as much information as possible regarding the upcoming election.”

Several residents voiced their concern about elections in the county under the newly elected Merchant during a city commission meeting on Tuesday.

Merchant narrowly won the Clerk and Recorder race against 16-year incumbent Rina Moore last fall, with less than 40 votes separating them. Several sources told the Daily Montanan Merchant was active in an election integrity group before assuming office.

Former Cascade County Commissioner Jane Webber spoke to the urgency of the library election needing to be held June 6, saying if the mill levy vote was postponed to the fall the levy wouldn’t be on the tax rolls for the year.

“Which means it delays an entire year before the library will ever see additional funds,” she said.

Great Falls Public Library Director Susie McIntyre told the Daily Montanan last week the library’s current funding model “isn’t adequate to provide the quality Library services that our community deserves.” Without the mill levy, there would be reduced hours and services, which could put the library’s state funding at risk.

Webber thanked the commission for passing the resolution to put the levy on the ballot earlier this year.

“I hope to God that you don’t have the same situation if you’re in a primary in September and a regular vote in November,” she said. “Because you may be facing the very same thing.”

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.