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 required, thus allowing more drop boxes to meet the needs of different counties. Looking up the state law (did she think I would not?), “ (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.