Allover except for the tears

Published on Thu, Dec 8, 2005
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All over except for the tears

County auditor Shirley Forslof said she’s pleased with the way things went in last month’s election, the first in which all county voters used mail-in ballots. Results were certified last week on November 29.

“The turnout was much better,” she said, “with over 62 percent of those eligible voting, compared to only 45 percent in both 2001 and 2003.” When asked if this method delays the final results, she said that it may appear that way because of a legislated extension to the period of time allowed to certify an election.

“The state legislature extended the certification period to 21 days from 15 days to accommodate overseas voters,” Forslof said, “and that was unrelated to the mail-in balloting we did here in Whatcom County. And with close elections you have to wait anyway.”

Forslof also said that she likes the new ballots, where all the information is on one page. “I think it’s easier than the old punch card system,” she said, “and our optical scanning equipment we just got worked very well.”
She did cite some common mistakes that makes the work of the ballot counters in the auditor’s office more difficult. “The biggest thing is to not use felt tip pens, like Sharpies, that sort of thing. They bleed through to the other side and everything stops while we re-create the ballot and send it through the counter.” She said that the counters are set up to detect a “single line, just a skinny little pencil line or one from a blue or black ball-point pen.”

The Blaine airport advisory ballot, which asked the city council “to explore the feasibility of closing the Blaine airport,” passed by a comfortable margin of 180 votes, though Forslof said that there were 76 Blaine ballots returned with the question unmarked. “That’s called an undervote,” Forslof said, “when a voter chooses not to mark a preference, and an overvote is when a voter marks both choices, which renders their vote invalid for that race.”

In the only two contested races for Blaine city council, Jason Overstreet defeated incumbent Bob Brunkow, appointed last year to fill Dieter Schugt’s seat, and Charlie Hawkins defeated political newcomer Jason Burke for the at-large seat.

Meanwhile, Red Goodwin, Mike Dodd and Pebble Griffin were all re-elected to the school board without opposition, as was fire district 13 commissioner Bill Salter. Don Montfort was re-elected to the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District Board over challenger Stephen Nelson.

In the race for position two on the Fire District 3 Commission, former assistant chief Bob Hamstra mounted a campaign against incumbent Rich Bosman but lost, 61 percent to 39 percent. Fire district 3 is a part of North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services, which also includes fire district 13.

County-wide, voters approved measures to provide performance audits for state agencies and to prohibit smoking in most places, while voting down two malpractice initiatives - one supported by physicians and another by attorneys, and approved a senate joint resolution on judicial conduct.

For the Port of Bellingham, Scott Walker was re-elected for a third term over challenger Tip Johnson, and Doug Smith was reelected without opposition.

Whatcom County council incumbent Laurie Caskey-Schreiber defeated newcomer Craig Mayberry, ReStore founder and pipeline activist Carl Weimer defeated Birch Bay realtor Mike Kent, and incumbent Seth Fleetwood narrowly retained his at-large seat, defeating retired Seattle police officer Gary Lysne by 45 votes out of over 54,000 cast.

A proposition approving a county-wide sales and use tax to pay for Whatcom Medic one was strongly approved. Five of the six charter amendments passed, providing for election of county council members by council district, publishing a voters’ pamphlet for all county primary and general elections, consideration for individuals “unduly burdened” by the possible impacts of regulations, requiring at least 22 council meetings throughout the year and the filling of vacancies at the next November general election.