EVERSON - Whatcom County election workers apparently left a ballot box open at 106 E. Main St. after picking up ballots on Friday, Nov. 1, county Auditor Debbie Adelstein said.
The 86 ballots dropped there over the next 24 hours were not secure. The county Canvassing Board will meet on Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, to decide what to do with the ballots.
A two-person elections crew picked up ballots in Everson at 9:25 a.m. on Friday. Adelstein received a call from the 911 dispatch center at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, saying the back of the ballot box had been found open.
Adelstein drove to Everson to take the ballots and check the lock. She found the lock was misaligned and hard to secure. The problem has been fixed, she said.
"There wasn't any sort of tampering with the box it doesn't look like," Adelstein said.
The auditor said ballots did not appear to be disturbed, but she could not rule out the possibility that some had been removed.
Voters who dropped their ballot in the Everson box between 9:25 a.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday may call the Election Division of the Auditor's Office at 360-676-6742 to confirm their ballots have been received.
To improve security, both members of a ballot-pickup team now must check the lock on a box to make sure it is secure before leaving, Adelstein said.
Noting that Everson is a stronghold for the Republican Party, Charlie Crabtree, the party's county chairman, encouraged residents there to use the ballot boxes on Election Day. Ballots mailed through the post office on Tuesday, Nov. 5, might not be postmarked in time to be counted, the auditor has said.
Ballot boxes, Crabtree said, "are still totally safe places to put their ballots. It's better to put it in a ballot box than the post office (Tuesday)."
Ballots from a ballot box also were called into question during the April 23 election in Ferndale. An election crew failed to lock the flap that prevents more ballots from entering the box after the close of that election for the city's library bond. The open flap made it possible for people to vote until the following morning, when the last batch of ballots was picked up. The $550,000 bond measure passed with 62 percent in favor.
The canvassing board in that case decided to count all the ballots from the last pickup, Adelstein said. She doesn't expect a different decision on Tuesday.
"I can't imagine in this case they would do anything other than count everything that was there," Adelstein said.
ATTEND THE MEETING
What: The Whatcom County Canvassing Board will decide what to do with 86 ballots left unsecured Friday, Nov. 1, in Everson.
When: 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5
Where: Auditor's Office, County Courthouse Suite 103, 311 Grand Ave., Bellingham
More info: Call the auditor at 360-715-7474.