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Great Falls School Board election to go forward with all mail-in ballots

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Great Falls School Board election to go forward with all mail-in ballots

Jan 30, 2024 | 7:02 pm ET
By Nicole Girten
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Great Falls School Board election to go forward with all mail-in ballots
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Photo illustration by Getty Images.

The Great Falls School board election in May will go forward as a mail-in ballot election after back and forth with the Cascade County Commission about whether to conduct a hybrid-poll election.

The commission initially was going to finalize the decision with representatives from the district at a meeting on Tuesday, but decided to cancel as the contract with the school district requested a mail-in ballot.

The commission is handling county elections after election duties were removed from the Clerk and Recorder’s Office in December following nearly a year with at least one open lawsuit against previous administrator Sandra Merchant for her handling of elections.

Commissioner Rae Grulkowski and interim administrator Devereaux Biddick, both Merchant allies, supported using a hybrid-poll model, but the school board had already requested a mail-in ballot and the district’s contract with the county to run the election reflected that request.

Great Falls Schools Superintendent Tom Moore told the Daily Montanan after Monday’s meeting on cost estimates he asked why they were meeting the next day, and when commissioners told him it was to discuss the contract, Moore said the contract was finalized already and requested a mail-in ballot, as had been discussed in previous meetings.

Moore said he asked if there was any more discussion needed, and a consensus was reached that the meeting wasn’t necessary and the county would move forward with a mail-in ballot as was outlined in the contract.

Commissioner Joe Briggs said the commission would refine the election cost estimates “so that for next year, they can make a good decision on whether they want it to continue that or go with a poll election.”

Both Briggs and Moore said commissioners came to a consensus on the decision. Moore said the language for the contract between the district and the commission may be amended for the 2025 election year, but still request an all mail-in ballot.

Briggs said the county’s Human Resources department scheduled interviews with candidates for the election administrator position for next week and hopes to have the position filled ideally the week after.