We Have Two Extra Ballot Drop Boxes!!

• Topics: Bellingham, Elections,

​Indeed, our county auditor was honest with all the facts she told me, and the facts she wrote to others, including County Executive Satpal Sidhu. Unfortunately, it was an example of facts creating deception. The truth is what we seek, of course - and admittedly, we can only ever get close to the truth. Today, we are closer.

By asking some very narrow questions today, I learned the auditor has - weeks ago - ordered two new, very large ballot drop boxes that will replace the medium sized boxes at Sehome Village and Ferndale City Hall. The capacity will hopefully help prevent the repeated overstuffing of the present medium sized boxes. If you like numbers, the capacity of each box will go from about 2,000 to about 3,000 ballot envelopes.

Which leads to the question that so quickly comes to the mind of every one of us: What will be done with the two boxes that will be removed? Well, the auditor’s office is not sure. The favored option is to replace the 1,000 ballot capacity drop boxes at Western and Whatcom Community College. Hmm. Has anyone informed the auditor that those students are not coming back this fall? So, why not add these two boxes to needed parts of Bellingham? Why not put them in places in Bellingham where they can do the most good?

Having fooled around with this issue for several years, including back and forth discussion with our previous auditor (who was always open to discussing issues with me), I think there is no question where one of those now available medium boxes should go. The very best might be the parking lot of the WECU on Woburn Street, very near Sunset Drive and Hannegan Way. Or maybe by the Regal Cinema. Somewhere in the northeast area of Bellingham. The folks outside the city limits on the Mt. Baker Highway have only the Deming drop box or the courthouse as choices now. The Barkley Village area would serve a huge residential area. And relieve traffic jams at the courthouse and Sehome Village.

The second medium 2,000 ballot capacity drop box could go either on Northwest Avenue near Birchwood, or on Fairhaven Parkway at I-5. In the “I Wana Moka” expansive drive-through area. This would also serve those living outside the city on Lake Samish and along Chuckanut Drive - two rural areas with no drop box. It would include the whole southside of Bellingham, and Edgemore.

But those are only suggestions from a citizen. It is up to our elected leaders to make good decisions. But remember, we have a constitutional right to petition our elected leaders. Sometimes they act as if we do not have this right. The council and executive have no power over the auditor as she is an elected county official. But perhaps they can influence her. Indeed, Satpal Sidhu, our county executive, showed his concern quickly and made efforts to learn the truth of the situation - only to be given the same facts we all were, facts that created a deception.

There are many other statements our auditor made that I could correct - we can say clarify - but I will touch on one that is relevant to this article. She wrote me, and others, the following. “We actually have 18 ballot drop boxes in the county including the one inside the courthouse. To provide some context regarding placement, state statute specifies one box per 15,000 registered voters in the county, one in each city, and one in every Census Designated Place with a post office. Those specific requirements were adopted into statute three years ago with the intent to ensure geographic coverage.” Again, factually correct as far as it goes. It reads as if we have no choice in the matter. The law must be followed, regardless. There is no wiggle room, her hands are tied, end of issue.

But she left out one word. She left out the word “minimum,” that is, the law states the minimum required, thus allowing more drop boxes to meet the needs of different counties. Looking up the state law (did she think I would not?), “RCW 29A.40.170 (2) The county auditor must establish a minimum of one ballot drop box per fifteen thousand registered voters in the county and a minimum of one ballot drop box in each city, town, and census-designated place in the county with a post office.”

The truth is there, but sometimes elusive. Too often, our elected leaders and representatives see us as inconsequential, and remain aloof when we pound on the door or beat the walls in frustration as we seek fair and intelligent decisions. This is one example.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Dianne Foster

Aug 27, 2020

I wonder how expensive it could be to put up a bunch more…..


Thomas Gilmore

Aug 27, 2020

The Whatcom Count Voter Drop Box Imbroglio or The 6000 Voters Equals 1 Drop Box Rule.

The Whatcom County Auditor’s office and various citizens in Bellinhgam have been engaged in a confusing disagreement about stainless steel voter ballot boxes. This has become an argument about fairness and equity when it comes to which citizens receive these voter boxes.

The county residents received 14 boxes for approximately 80,000 voters. One box for every 5,714 voters. The city of Bellingham received 4 boxes for about 70,000 voters. One box for every 17,500 voters. Somehow this was considerd a fair distrubution of voter ballot boxes by county officials.

We now are facing an unprecidented November election. The voters in Bellingham want the Auditor’s office to provide from 4 to 8 more assessable and convieniently located voter boxes. Do the math:  70,000 Bellingham voters divided by 12 boxes equals 1 box for every 5,833 voters.

How does the county pay for these voter boxes? Does the county purchase from out of state providers or request local welding companies to produce the boxes? Perhaps Bellingham Technical College Welding Technology Program would be able to produce the boxes at the lowest cost as a public service.

Where will the additional boxes be located? Does each of Bellingham’s 6 city wards receive 2 boxes?  Placement at local malls and shopping centers? At city fire stations that are manned 24 hours a day? At public school sites? At public libraries? Will native Americans have a voter box placed at a casino like in Skagit county?

Lastly, why has it taken so long for county officials to recognize and respond to the shortage of voters ballot boxes in the city of Bellingham?


Tip Johnson

Aug 27, 2020

Maybe the Post Office could donate some of the collection boxes they are decommissioning



John Servais

Aug 27, 2020

Yes, several people have suggested to me that the recently removed postal service boxes could be reused for ballot drop boxes.  They should be readibly available.  Even one high elected official thought this a very good idea.  There would be a discussion about the potential lessor security of postal boxes compared to the Fort Knox like build of the ballot drop boxes.  But then there is no money in ballot drop boxes, which is the probably the only motivation for trying to break into a mail box.  Those who know more could weigh in if this possibility is taken seriously by our Auditor.  This would allow ballot drop boxes in more locations in Bellingham, such as Fairhaven, Lakeway Drive near Electric Avenue, downtown Bellingham, Cordata area, the Fountain District, and more.  Gee, what a concept.  No hassle, no waiting in line, convenient locations, and secure voting.  Very viable and we have 7 weeks to implement it before the fall election.


Nicholas Sotak

Aug 29, 2020

Can the auditor open her office to accept ballots directly?  


John Servais

Aug 31, 2020

In days of yore, one could go into the Auditor office and drop off a ballot.  But with Covid in the air, we cannot.  

The good news is the block south of the courthouse has a is very large ballot drop box in the parking lot with a drop slot at a convenient height for dropping a ballot from your car window.  I doubt that box ever gets full. 

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