Library election lawsuit hearing moved up to May 18

The court hearing on the Great Falls Public Library’s request for an election monitor has been moved to 3 p.m. May 18.

On May 10, the library’s attorney filed for an emergency injunction asking the court to appoint an election monitor for their June 6 levy election based.

On May 11, Judge Brenda Gilbert, a district court judge out of Livingston assumed the case and set a hearing for May 23 that has now been moved up to Thursday afternoon.

Court orders Merchant to mail library levy ballots by May 17; sets hearing on library request for monitor

Local judges recused themselves from the case, which is common when a case is filed against Cascade County and local officials.

In setting the initial hearing, Gilbert also ordered that Sandra Merchant, county clerk and recorder, mail all absentee ballots by May 17.

Library files suit against Merchant over elections

On May 12, Raph Graybill, pro bono lawyer for the library board, filed another motion to notify the court of another error made by Merchant’s office.

The election office published a required notice of the election in the May 12 edition of the Tribune. The notice lists the library levy election date as May 2, 2023, but that was the school election and the library election is set for June 6.

Library board votes to authorize potential legal action for upcoming levy election

The notice also states that ballots will be mailed May 17-22, but state law requires absentee ballots be mailed 20 days prior to the election, which is May 17, according to Graybill’s motion.

According to several sources, Merchant ordered the ballots on Wednesday and they were printed as of May 12.

Library requests election monitor; commission debates public comment on elections

Merchant was elected as clerk and recorder in November and assumed office in January.

Since then, she’s supervised at least three elections, including the May 2 Great Falls Public Schools board election.

“Each of these elections has featured severe errors and unlawful deviation from statutory requitements,” according to the library’s suit. “The errors and unlawful deviations are severe enough that they threaten the validity of the elections.”

Library board requests election monitor

The library suit alleges a serious of errors in the May 2 elections, including improper signature verification, disenfranchising voters by not sending absentee ballots properly or at all to eligible voters, not allowing voters in a subprecinct to vote, opening polls at hour late, improperly folding ballots, sending ballots to ineligible voters in the West Side Flood and Drainage District, and anti-library lobbying within the election office, among other issues.

May 2 election results posted to county website

The City Commission voted Feb. 21 to send the question to the voters in the form of an amendment to the city charter to increase the levy for the Great Falls Public Library from the current maximum of two mills to 17 mills.

If approved, the city would be able to levy up to 17 mills annually and the additional 15 mills would generate about $1.55 million, increasing the library’s operating budget to about $2.7 million annually, using current tax figures.

Preliminary results have incumbents keeping seats in GFPS election; library board calls emergency meeting

Without the increased funding, Library Director Susie McIntyre has said the library would face a budget shortage leading to staff cuts, reduced community services, fewer hours open to the public, an inability to meet state minimum standards and the loss of state library aid.

Library board, Merchant continue discussion of June 6 election details; Fort Shaw, West Side flood district ballot issues

On May 8, Graybill sent a letter to the County Commission, County Attorney Josh Racki and Merchant.

Merchant responded and refused, according to the library board.

The library board filed their suit in District Court May 10 asking the court to appoint a monitor.