The Hidden Election

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Mon, Feb 02, 2015, 8:34 am  //  Guest writer

Cartoon by Colly Perry.

Barbara Perry guest writes.  She wrote about this in the December issue of Whatcom Watch.  And last Wednesday's Cascadia Weekly also had an article.  See links at bottom of article.

Also see bottom of article for information on how to get a ballot and vote.

- - - 

An obscure election for a supervisor position on the Whatcom Conservation District (WCD) Board is taking place NOW. Voters must request a ballot by February 9 and have their ballots in by March 10. All Whatcom County registered voters may vote. The state selects two board members and county voters elect three.

The mission of this conservation district is to assist land managers with their conservation choices. The supervisor’s duty is to be a land steward and protect citizens’ land and water. Since all industries affect our land and water, it’s important to get out your vote for the health of our resources. Descriptions of all board members are on the WCD website and clearly present their mission, goals, and activities. Most of the candidates have farm and/or timber interests.

This election is obscure because it does not appear on the regular Whatcom County ballot. In fact, when asked during the election for the Conservation District in 2012, Whatcom County Registrar Debbie Adelstein did not even know about it. She later said that because local elections cost around $20,000 per candidate it would be too expensive for this supervisory, land steward position to be on the regular voter’s ballot. The Conservation District is mostly grant-funded and that’s a considerable amount of money to pay, so they run their own election for a few thousand dollars.

Once Adelstein learned of the election, she visited the district office on Hannegan to see how it was run and advise the volunteer ballot counters how to approve the ballots received. “They were doing well,” she reported after spending a couple of hours at the office. But while the volunteer vote counters may have been “doing well,” 81 of the 1,440 ballots were disqualified.

On the last day of the 2012 election between the more conservative Larry Helm and liberal-leaning Jan Urling, voters began arriving at the Lynden office to overwhelmingly vote for Larry Helms, the more conservative candidate. I can’t help thinking some volunteer(s?) counting ballots at the district office prematurely revealed that city voters were winning the election with their progressive vote. Did someone start calling more conservative farmers, asking them to come in and vote for their candidate? Only 10 votes cast at the office were disqualified, but 71 mailed ballots were rejected. No one has reported whether the disqualified votes were for Urling or Helm. Why?

See the record:

June 2012 Votes:   Lynden Office   Mailed Ballots    Totals

Larry Helm             442                   272                     714
Jan Urling                65                   584                     649
All Ballots              517                   927                   1,444

Disqualified:           10                      71                       81

This year, liberal candidate Joy Monjure decided to challenge Larry Helm in the March 2015 election. The following is an excerpt of the letter she sent announcing her intention and her reasons for running:

Dear Friends,
…I am jumping in again this spring and running for a Supervisor position with the Whatcom Conservation District. My opponent is the incumbent, Larry Helm (2015 Whatcom Tea Party board member). I have worked with the District many times over the past 30 years in my former job with the City of Bellingham, as a member of the Everson City Council and as a local landowner. It is a well-run and important Whatcom County resource. You're probably asking why this election is important and why do I want to run?

Whatcom County faces several natural resource challenges that threaten our health, culture, economy, and quality of life. We’ve made progress towards salmon recovery, but still have a long way to go to improve habitat conditions.  Shellfish harvest areas continue to close due to worsening water quality. The impacts of climate change, including warmer temperatures and more extreme weather events are expected to drive a significant migration of “climate refugees” to the Pacific Northwest. This growth has the potential to degrade our natural systems and change the very character of our community.
 
Conservation Districts are a unique form of non-regulatory government. They match local resource needs with technical and financial resources to help landowners with “on-the-ground” conservation projects. With a network of 45 conservation districts operating locally across the state, the Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) and partner districts are well positioned to lead resource conservation efforts. Conservation district staff has both the technical expertise to ensure quality work and the local knowledge needed to build trusting relationships with landowners.
 
Whatcom Conservation District's mission is to assist land managers with their conservation choices. Since 1946, they have worked with landowners and farmers to manage natural resources in Whatcom County.

The election process is very unique and a bit cumbersome, but I hope you will support me and VOTE. The following is a description of the process.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!  Joy

Please vote! And remember: to avoid disqualification of your ballot, it is imperative to fill out your ballot exactly as your voter registration card reads.  If you have to look and/or have lost your card, call the auditor’s office at (360) 676-6740.  Please fill out your ballots carefully and let’s make the number of ballots counted larger than last election’s 1,440.

Voters must request a ballot by February 9 and have their ballots in by March 10. To do this, go to www.whatcomcd.org.  At the top of the page, click on ‘Supervisor Election Notice’ and follow directions.

Or call Dawn at (360) 526-2381, ext. 0 (zero) and ask her to mail you a ballot. Ballots must be returned to WCD post marked no later than March 10, 2015 by 6 p.m.

You can also vote in person on March 10, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the WCD office location:  6975 Hannegan Road, Lynden, WA 98264  This is Hinote's Corner, where Hannegan meets the Pole Road.  The WCD office is not quite a quarter mile north of the Pole Road on the west side of Hannegan - across the road from the 10 Mile Grange building - right at the intersection of Hinotes Ct.  

Related Links:

-> Barbara's article in the December issue of Whatcom Watch
-> Cascade Weekly - Jan 28 - page 8 - "An Obscure Little Election"
-> Whatcom Conservation District website
-> WCD site - direct to application page for ballot

The Hidden Election

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