By Steve Guntli
The first votes have been counted, and the proposition to increase the sales tax by .2 percent to pay for a new Whatcom County Jail is too close to call.
With 46,677 ballots counted, Proposition 2015-1 is still up in the air. Returns show 22,453 votes (50.32%) against and 22,171 votes (49.68 percent) in favor. On Tuesday night, when the first ballots were counted, “yes” votes for the proposition were leading. The percentages are certain to change as more ballots are counted.
County executive Jack Louws said it’s still to early to comment on the vote.
“We presented an option for voters to consider, and it appears we’re going to have to wait a day or two to find out,” Louws said. “Obviously, I will respect whatever decision the voters make.”
Also too close to call is the race for Whatcom County Council district 2, position B. The first returns showed Kathy Kershner with 19,332 votes (50.02 %) and Satpal Sidhu with 19,318 (49.98 percent). After Wednesday afternoon’s count, Sidhu and Kershner have swapped places. Sidhu now has 22,548 votes (50.75%) to Kershner’s 21,879 (49.75%). As with the Proposition 2015-1 race, these numbers are still likely to change.
Louws handily defeated challenger Joy Gilfilen in the race for county executive. Louws won 29,013 (70.8%) of the votes, and Gilfilen took 11,959 (29.2%).
In Point Roberts, Stan Riffle held off Judson Meraw in the race for Fire Protection District 5 position 1 commissioner. Riffle took 143 votes (57.7%) and Meraw 105 (42.3%). Arthur Reber won the race for Water District 4 commissioner, position 3, beating Wayne Knowles 146 (58.9%) to 102 (41.1%). Madeline Anderson retained her seat in position 1, running unopposed. Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District 1 commissioners Bennett Blaustein, Stephen T. Falk and Linda Hughes also ran uncontested races.
In the race for Blaine school district board of directors, Joan Lotze won over challenger Russ Schutt with 1,937 votes (68.6%) to Schutt’s 887 (31.4%). Three other candidates, John Freal, Charles Gibson and Todd Berge, ran unopposed.
Blaine native Bobby Briscoe defeated former Ferndale mayor Gary Jensen for a seat on the Port of Bellingham commission. Briscoe won the seat with 23,841 votes (55.4%), compared to Jensen’s 19,178 (44.6%).
In Birch Bay, Birch Bay Water and Sewer District commissioner Carl Reichhardt ran unopposed to retain his seat. Three Blaine Birch Bay Parks and Recreation District 2 commissioners, Richard Sturgill, Jeff Carrington and Douglas Robertson, also ran unopposed.
Voters approved nine out of 10 proposed amendments to the Whatcom County Charter, including Proposition 1, which calls for district-only voting in general elections, and Proposition 9, which will split the county into five voting districts. Only Proposition 8, which would alter the composition of the county districting commission, was rejected. Voters also strongly approved Proposition 7, which would limit county executive and county council members to three consecutive terms.
As of Wednesday night, the 40,518 ballots received represented 36 percent of registered county voters. Results of the next count will be released at 5 p.m. on November 5.
See the updated results here: TNL Election 2016-UPDATED 2105-11-06