County council votes to approve voting precinct changes

Published on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Most registered Whatcom County voters are in new voting precincts following a Whatcom County Council vote on Tuesday.

The Whatcom County Council voted unanimously to approve the new precinct boundaries, effective immediately. The changes comes after statewide redistricting mandated reorganizing the county’s voting precincts by the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office. Whatcom County elections supervisor Pete Griffin said the auditor’s office has been working every single weekday, “and a couple Saturdays,” since April 5 updating legal descriptions for the county’s voting precincts.

The precinct changes include adding 58 precincts to the county, bringing the total number to 178.

About 85 percent of county residents have been affected by these changes, but Griffin said all 117,000 registered voters will receive new voter ID cards. Isolating the 85 percent and only mailing new cards to them would have been extremely labor intensive, Griffin explained.

“It was just easier to go ahead and do everybody,” he said.

Griffin estimates the mailing will cost approximately $35,000 and will also allow the auditor’s office to update voting addresses in time for the presidential election in November.

Precinct information is used by government and private entities to analyze population trends and by local political parties to organize caucus locations.

Precinct boundary changes do not have much of an effect on individual residents.

The changes will add a new precinct to Blaine, which currently comprises precincts 301, 302, 303, but additional precincts in the Birch Bay area were unclear as of press time. Griffin said he plans to have new maps laying out the precincts available by  May 4.

“That’s pushing it, and it’s my best case scenario,” Griffin said. “But I’m going to try to shoot for the best case scenario.”

Griffin said county auditor staff wanted to keep the precincts as compact and contiguous as possible and avoid including multiple special taxing districts in the same precinct. Occasionally, this is unavoidable, Griffin explained, citing a relative square-shaped precinct in Lynden that is crossed by five different taxing districts.

“In that example, you’ve got five different groups of people getting five different ballots,” he said. “[The district boundaries] aren’t likely to change, so we just have to work with it.”

Griffin expects the county auditor’s office to begin mailing out new voter ID cards by Thursday, April 26.