County board certifies May 2 special district elections

The Cascade County canvass board certified all of the May 2 special district elections during a May 19 meeting.

The canvass board included County Commissioners Jim Larson and Rae Grulkowski and Clerk of Court Tina Henry.

During the meeting, several members of the public asked the board not to accept the results and redo several of the special district elections.

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Sandra Merchant, clerk and recorder, brought two copies of the election results for the three-person board to review.

For the Stockett water and sewer board election, she said 72 ballots were issued and 32 voters were cast for 44 percent participation.

In the Gore Hill water board election, Merchant said 359 ballots were issued and 151 were returned for 42 percent participation.

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Anne Brust, a member of the public, said she thought Grulkoswki should recuse herself from certifying election results since she worked in the elections office leading up to the May 2 election and at the polls on election day.

Brust said voters in the district went to the elections office before the election and asked to see candidate filing forms to know who was on their ballot. She said the voters were denied and told they had to fill out a records request form with the county attorney’s office.

Those forms are public and have previously been posted to the county elections website.

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Carey Ann Haight, deputy county attorney, said that she didn’t think Grulkowski needed to recuse herself since the canvass board’s role is narrow and ministerial in reviewing the results as presented by Merchant.

For the West Great Falls Flood Control and Drainage District, Merchant said 404 ballots were issues and 141 were returned.

There have been multiple reports of ballots being issued incorrectly in the flood district and Steve Potts, a lawyer representing some voters in the district sent a letter to the County Commission on May 18 asking them not to certify the results and redo the election.

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Potts also sent a letter representing Elliot Merja and Riley Denning, property owners within the Fort Shaw Irrigation District, asking that commissioner redo that election as well, citing a number of errors.

Merchant said 109 ballots were issued in the Fort Shaw district and 65 were returned. Those voters are assigned votes based on acreage.

During the meeting, Merja said he also believed Grulkowski should recuse herself.

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“This election has been so misdone it is amazing,” Merja said. “This election was run as such a farce that it should not stand.”

Potts told The Electric on May 19 that he was consulting with his clients to determine if they wanted to pursue legal action regarding the elections.

Haight said the canvass board has limited jurisdiction and can’t determine the legality of elections.

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The Great Falls Public Schools board is scheduled to review the school board election results during their May 22 meeting.

According to staff, Merchant met May 12 with Gordon Johnson and Mark Finnicum, board members, and Brian Patrick, GFPS business operations director, to review the results.

There were five candidates for three board seats and no write-in candidates.

The incumbent candidates Bill Bronson, Kim Skornogoski and Amie Thompson had a “clear majority of the votes cast,” according to the staff report for the May 22 meeting.

“Press coverage in this election cited several irregularities in the election process. Due to the wide margin of votes
between the top three candidates and the remaining candidates, district legal counsel advises the board to approve the selection of Bill Bronson, Kim Skornogoski and Amie Thompson for three-year terms on the board,” according to the staff report.

On May 18, a district court judge said she would appoint a monitor for the Great Falls Public Library’s June 6 levy election after the library board filed suit citing a number of errors and concerns in the election.