Voters struggle with absentee ballot issues in Cascade County

By: - April 21, 2023 12:53 pm

Sign for the Cascade County Election Office photographed on March 31, 2023. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)

Voters in Cascade County are struggling with absentee ballots that don’t fit in the return envelope, getting duplicate ballots or haven’t received a ballot yet.

These issues add to the mounting concerns plaguing the Elections Office under Sandra Merchant, who started in January after narrowly ousting the former longtime Clerk and Recorder Rina Moore. Merchant is known to be associated with an election skeptics group.

County Attorney Josh Racki said any ballot that comes back in the secrecy envelope and the return envelope will be counted. The Election’s Office did not answer the phone when called Thursday and Clerk and Recorder Merchant did not respond to an email from the Daily Montanan in time for this story Friday.

Great Falls Public Schools is holding its trustee election, along with board elections for the local flood and irrigation districts.

The Great Falls Public School Board of Trustees election day is May 2.

Some voters have taped their envelopes shut as the top of the ballot peaks above the fold.

Great Falls voter Bob James said he called Merchant’s office to ask if there was a proper way to fold the ballots so it would still be counted, and he hadn’t received a call back.

“I think that Ms. Merchant should issue a press release explaining, you know, how people can fold these ballots to get them into the envelopes,” James said.

James said given all that’s transpired, Merchant should resign. He’s not alone in that thought.

Concerned citizens are circulating a petition asking Merchant to step down. The petition was started by local activist Jasmine Taylor who also participated in a protest for Merchant’s resignation earlier this year.

Another voter, Steven Grbic, ran into this issue and was worried if he folded his ballot to fit in the envelope, it wouldn’t be counted. However, he said Merchant told him he could fold it, and it would be valid. Grbic said he signed the petition.

The Elections Office website says, “Absentee ballots have a new envelope this year due to an envelope shortage. Some of the traditional green signature envelopes have been replaced with a white envelope with a green stripe.”

James said the ballots also didn’t include lines for write-in candidates, which has typically been done.

KRTV reported earlier this week that some voters have received multiple ballots.

Some voters still haven’t received their ballot, even though neighbors and family members at their same address already received theirs.

Diane Peterson told the Daily Montanan on Thursday she had called the Elections Office to ask when she’d be receiving her ballot since her husband and neighbors received their ballots, but she hadn’t received hers nor seen it scheduled in her informed delivery portal.

She said the office told her it had been mailed already.

“Now I’m probably going to be forced to have to go down and get an absentee ballot from them if it doesn’t show up in the next week,” Peterson said. “I’ve never not gotten my absentee ballot.”

Peterson told the Daily Montanan in an update Friday afternoon she received her ballot earlier that day.

Peterson said she’s been voting absentee in the county for more than 20 years and she’s always received her ballot on the same day as her husband.

Important Dates for the May 2, 2023 GFPS Trustee Election

There are three open positions on the GFPS School Board with the election scheduled for May 2nd. The five candidates are Trustee Bill Bronson, Rodney Meyers, Tony Rosales, Trustee Kim Skornogoski, and Trustee Amie Thompson.

  • April 12 – May 1, 2023, at the Elections Office, 325 2nd Ave North, Room 100 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. you may:
    • Register to Vote
    • Request an Absentee ballot
    • Cast your vote in person at the Elections Office through May 1, 2023
  • April 25. 2023, 2 p.m. – Public testing of the tabulation machine at the Expo Park, Exhibition Hall.
  • April 26-28, 2023, Election Judge Training. Please call the Elections Office for more information at (406) 454-6803.
  • May 1, 2023, Last day to vote at the Elections Office. The office will be open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • 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 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Please contact the Elections Office at 406-454-6803 with any questions you may have.
This year, only those who are registered as Absentee Voters will be sent ballots on April 17th. You may check here ( to see if you are registered as an Absentee voter. If you are not a registered Absentee voter, you will not receive a ballot in the mail. You must go to the Cascade County Elections Office and request an Absentee ballot in person by May 1, 2023.

If you are interested in serving as an Election Judge, please contact the Elections Office at 406-454-6803. Training is scheduled for April 26 and April 28, 2023.

Source: Great Falls Public School District

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect Diane Peterson received her ballot on Friday April 21 after originally having not yet received it. 

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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.