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Whatcom Watch Online
Question: How Many Requested Ballots Not Returned to Conservation District


April 2015

Dear Watchers

Question: How Many Requested Ballots Not Returned to Conservation District

by Barbara Perry

The U.S. Postal Statement required for bulk mailings says the Whatcom Conservation District (WCD) mailed 3,798 ballots and 2,923 were returned by mail. What happened to the other 875 ballots or 23 percent?

Were they not returned to be counted?

Why did a large number of people take the time and energy to request a ballot and then fail to return them by mail?

Several other questions about the district election linger. Several people, including a former Bellingham mayor, former City Council member and a current member of the County Council requested but did not receive a ballot. How many others are there? Enough to have altered the initial tally? Whatcom Watch would like to know about any problems you had with the ballot process.*

Of those returned, many were thrown out because voters did not fill the ballot out correctly and/or did not sign attestations verifying they were registered voters. Or put their ballot in the wrong envelope.

Other state CD elections follow a more common system for voting. Polling people check the registered voters before their ballots are sent to them. If there is any question of eligibility, the “Polling Officer … must verify the eligibility of each voter before issuing a ballot ….” The Polling officer must verify voting concerns.

The whole system, or lack of it, may explain why so many voters on the Whatcom Watch Facebook site had many other complaints, including no bus went to the District Center; voting instructions were confusing; counting was not overseen by neutral voters as in a regular election. As to the latter, in political elections, county auditors typically invite members of both political parties to oversee ballot gathering and counting.

In an email to me, elections officer for the Commission, Bill Eller wrote, “Members of the public have made me aware of some irregularities with the election. I am looking into those issues … candidates are free to run campaigns, so long as those campaigns comply with the election WAC Chapter 135-110, the commission’s election policies and procedures (which can be found on the commission’s web page), and other applicable laws.”

The web page Eller refers states that the WCD election does not follow regular, i.e. political, election “requirements. Instead the Conservation Commission is charged with establishing procedures for the elections.

Let us remember tax payers fund all state conservation districts:

Each CD is an independent, non-regulatory local government entity that works with landowners to help them protect water quality, improve fish and wildlife habitat and resource conservation, while sustaining the vital agricultural community. In other words, CDs exist to help landowners to be good stewards of the land.

Since being a good land steward is increasingly important in the face of global warming and shifting weather patterns. Voters: email questions/concerns to Bill Eller at beller@scc.wa.gov or phone 509-385-7512. A note to the governor and/or state legislators may be wise also. And let us know, too.

As of March 16, 2015, the unofficial results are as follows:

  Voted in
Lynden Office
Returned
Mail Ballots
Total
Larry R. Helm 1,200 (91%) 853 (32%) 2,053 (51%)
Joy Monjure 124 (9%) 1,840 (68%) 1,964 (49%)
Counted Ballots 1,324 2,693 4,017
Invalid Ballots 35 230 265 (7%)

Reasons for 230 mailed ballots being "contested/disqualified"

  • 107 did not contain attestation statement;
  • 87 did not have ballot inside small security envelope;
  • 14 signed or marked another name on the ballot;
  • 9 could not find name on Whatcom County voter rolls;
  • 5 postmarked after election day;
  • 4 duplicate ballots;
  • 3 had their name written on security envelope;
  • 1 voted for both candidates;

Reasons for 35 office ballots being "contested/disqualified"

  • 20 signed or marked another name on the ballot;
  • 11 could not find name on Whatcom County voter rolls;
  • 3 blank ballot in box;
  • 1 did not turn in ballot;

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