The Election Protection Committee, headed up by former Cascade County
Commissioner Jane Weber and Pete Fontana, brother to former Cascade County
Clerk and Recorder Rina Fontana-Moore, has created a media maelstrom over their
claims against the Cascade County Elections Office. The office is currently run by
republican Sandra Merchant who took over this year after winning against
Fontana-Moore in the November 2022 election.
What’s most confounding is the Election Protection Committee seemingly dons
their blinders for the time when democrat Rina Fontana-Moore was in charge of
For one, they are up in arms over reports that duplicate ballots were sent out during
this election. I’m not going to dispute or confirm that here. But I merely want to
point out that ballot delivery mistakes are nothing new. Let’s look at the West Side
Flood Control and Drainage District election in 2021, shall we?
District Court Judge Elizabeth Best declared that election invalid after the Cascade
County Elections Office, run by Fontana-Moore, sent ballots to every voter in that
district, not just landowners as is the law. Media at that time reported some 830
ballots were mailed out when only 519 ballots should have been sent. Judge invalidates drainage district election, county will redo election for that seat | The Electric (theelectricgf.com)
Flood District commissioners serve three-year terms. This Flood District election
certainly wasn’t Fontana-Moore’s first rodeo. One wonders how the experienced
Fontana-Moore, who had headed up Cascade County elections for fourteen years at
that point, could make that kind of mistake. Where was outrage at that election
debacle from Election Protection Committee folks and their ilk? Did it perhaps not
matter to them because a democrat was in charge?
On the May 3 during Montana News Right Now, a reporter read a quote from
Jasmine Taylor, a member of the Election Protection Committee, complaining that
the Elections Office at the annex was closed and locked on Election Day morning,
so folks couldn’t pick up ballots. Is she not aware that when Fontana-Moore ran
the elections office, it had become standard practice to move the elections office to
the fairgrounds about a week in advance of the elections and that voters had to go
to the fairground to pick up ballots? Or does Taylor think we would forget that
Here’s the text from the Cascade County Elections Office webpage from
November 2022 as an example:
“We will move our office to Exhibition Hall at Montana Expo Park on Monday,
October 31st, 2022 through election day on November 8th, 2022. If you would
like receive your ballot during this time period, you will need to come over to the
Further, folks that attended election judge training in 2022 claim that Fontana-Moore’s son worked in the elections office while she was in charge. A son hired to work for his mother? Isn’t that nepotism? But not one word about that from folks that are now involved with the Election Protection Committee.
Seems to me this Election Protection Committee has a “rules for thee but not for
The Election Protection Committee mentioned to the media that they filed an
ethics complaint against Merchant. Pete Fontana filed the complaint with the
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (MT COPP), and it was received by
the agency on April 20 (Fontana v Grulkowski, Merchant, and Biddick.pdf). The
complaint was rejected.
To summarize the contents, I’d opine that it contains some of the most ridiculous
allegations I have ever seen.
It seems the Election Protection Committee has an issue with freedom of speech
and expression. Regarding Cascade County Election Office volunteers, Fontana
“Several of these individuals provided controversial and vial [?] testimony at the
Great Falls City Commission meeting against the Great Falls Library Levy.”
“Several of the volunteers’ cars display the VOTE NO ON THE LIBRARY
“A number of these individuals signed a petition to the Cascade County
Commissioners requesting the County eliminate the mail ballot process….”
“Moreover, witnesses have also reported that this group of volunteers and the
County Clerk and Recorder Sandra Merchant, begin each day with a prayer. That is
highly inappropriate in a public office or county property.”
It appears the Election Protection Committee expects people to give up their First
Amendment rights if they volunteer in the elections office under Merchant. If your
car has a sticker they don’t agree with; if you signed a petition limiting mail-in
ballots to overseas military, disabled or other qualified persons; if you provided
comment at a city commission meeting against the library levy; if you prayed at
your job — then the Election Protection Committee thinks that’s fodder for an
ethics complaint. That’s ludicrous!
Someone needs to remind the Election Protection Committee that what folks chose
to support or oppose on their own time and their own dollar, certainly don’t equate
to ethics violations — ditto for prayer amongst coworkers, which when I last
checked, is legal as long as it was voluntary, and is protected by the Constitution.
Oh wait someone did. Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Chris Gallus
wrote in the rejection letter (MT COPP letter-Fontana.pdf):
“Your complaint does not detail or otherwise describe any specific alleged
violations committed by a named public employee for me to consider. I would
point out that the statute applies specifically and exclusively to public employees,
and does not include elected officials of a local government. Similarly the statute
does not “restrict the right of a public employee…to express personal political
views,” including placement of campaign bumper stickers or related material on a
That’s just the tip of the iceberg and I encourage all to read the complaint and the
MT COPP response letter.
Related to all of this is another interesting event.
On April 3 of this year, “Liberty and Values Project,” a group opposing the library
levy, was registered with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices as an
independent political committee. This is necessary once a group makes political
expenditures or receives political donations on a ballot issue.
But the next day Jasmine Taylor registered that same name, “Liberty and Values
Project” as a business name with the Montana Secretary of State. She then sent a
cease and desist letter to the Liberty and Values Project committee. This is
documented it on her What the Funk blog – https://wtf406.com/2023/04/wtf406-
Although a case can be made for the committee’s prior use of the name “Liberty
and Values Project,” the organizer told me it wasn’t worth the fight. The committee
simply added “MT” to their name and registered that with both the MT COPP and
the Secretary of State—problem solved.
Draw your own conclusions, but I have my doubts that Taylor has any interest in
using “Liberty and Values Project” as a business name. Seems instead like she saw
an opportunity to harass a committee she opposes; one that had actually established
prior use of that name.
The “progressive” left seems to know no bounds when it comes to attacks and if
you think we are immune to their antics here in Great Falls, Montana, I’m hoping
the examples given here will open your eyes.
Thank you Jeni for you time, talent, and courage! You are our voice in the wilderness.
Fabulous, fact filled article, with an attention to truth and accuracy.
Thank you Jeni…. Great work!
Great work Jenni!
Thank you for writing with objectivity and facts, and calling out the duplicity of these people.
Jeni, your talents to find and expose the truth are amazing. You have a real gift!!!
Thank you for sharing the FACTS that are right under our nose, if we would only look….. and not be sheep led astray by the opposition noise.
Thank you for reporting this and for researching the facts when the shoe was on the other foot. This article should required reading for every voter.