Cascade County To Interview Election Administrator Candidates Tuesday

Cascade County Commissioners will conduct interviews on Tuesday with four candidates for election administrator, a newly-created county position. The candidates are Terry Thompson, Nancy Donovan, Lynn DeRoche and Rina Fontana-Moore. Details of the meeting, including a Zoom link, are found at: https://cascadecountymt.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_02062024-643

Election duties in Cascade County were historically the responsibility of the clerk and recorder, but on December 12 two of the three commissioners, Joe Briggs and Jim Larson, voted to pass Resolution 23-62. Commissioner Rae Grulkowski voted in opposition.

The resolution stripped election duties from that office and from current Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant. Merchant took over as clerk and recorder in January 2023 after winning in a close race against Fontana-Moore in November 2022. Fontana-Moore had served as clerk/recorder and election administrator for 16 years. The resolution mentions election-related issues with the current and former clerk and recorder and both Fontana-Moore and Merchant have faced scrutiny and lawsuits during their time in office.

In Montana, the default office to handle election duties is the clerk and recorder. The Montana Code Annotated allows county commissioners to remove election duties from the clerk and recorder and appoint an election administrator. Cascade County joins Yellowstone and a handful of other counties in Montana who have decided to remove election duties from the clerk and recorder, although it appears Cascade County is the only one to do so during someone’s term of office or not at the request of the sitting clerk and recorder.

Resolution 23-62 also appears to seek to restrict Commissioner Rae Grulkowski from voting on election-related decisions, since she is up for re-election this year.

The resolution language states: “…any single Commissioner whose seat appears on the ballot in a given calendar years shall be required to abstain from all decisions concerning the operation and management of the election office during that calendar year until such time as the election for said office is finalized;…”

It is unknown whether Briggs and Larson will cite the resolution as authority to prevent fellow Commissioner Grulkowski from having input into appointing the election administrator.

The upcoming election administrator appointment is the latest chapter in a more than year-long struggle between the left and right political factions in the county. The left, including the Election Protection Committee founded by Fontana Moore’s brother Pete Fontana and former Cascade County Commissioner Jane Weber, have applauded Resolution 23-62. Those on the right feel that Briggs and Larson’s actions have negated the will of voters who elected a combined clerk/ recorder and elections administrator in 2022 and consider the resolution egregious government overreach

Jeni Dodd
Jeni Dodd
Jeni Dodd is a creative, multi-faceted, multi-talented, knowledge junkie. She currently utilizes her skills in a variety of business and artistic endeavors. Liberty, integrity, truth and critical thinking are among her most important precepts.

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