Elections officials had reassuring news for voters who are returning their ballots to one of the eight drop boxes in Whatcom County: The boxes are less likely to be left unlocked overnight, as happened once last year in Everson.
Sturdier locks and new seals were installed on all the boxes after an investigation revealed that the lock on the Everson box didn't function correctly. An elections worker inadvertently left the box unlocked on the morning of Nov. 1, 2013. The open box wasn't reported until the following morning.
Officials found no evidence of ballot tampering, and they counted the 86 ballots that had been dropped into the box when it was unsecured.
"We thought we were able to determine that on that one particular box, the lock was too tight and it didn't engage the way it should have," county Auditor Debbie Adelstein said on Friday, Aug. 1. "A locksmith, one from each party, did an onsite visit and made a recommendation to us, and we followed the recommendation."
To be more exact, one of the locksmiths was a Libertarian, the other a Democrat. The Republicans agreed with their joint recommendation for a fix, Adelstein said.
Ballots for the current primary election are due at drop boxes by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5. Voters who plan to mail their ballots should get them to the post office by Monday, postal officials recommend, to ensure they are postmarked by Tuesday. Late ballots will not be counted.
Whatcom voters are considering candidates for the state Legislature, U.S. Congress, Public Utility District of Whatcom County and county prosecutor. The top two vote-getters in each race advance to the general election on Nov. 4.
All partisan races appear on the primary ballot, even those with only one or two candidates. Parties consider the results of the two-person primaries to be dry runs for the real contest in November.
The Secretary of State's Office is predicting up to 40 percent voter turnout statewide.
In Whatcom County, 21,734 ballots had been received as of Friday, Aug. 1, from 17 percent of the registered voters.
Drop boxes are located at the Blaine, Lynden and Deming libraries; Meridian Middle School; Western Washington University Bookstore; the Everson branch of Whatcom Educational Credit Union and the south parking lot of the Whatcom County Courthouse. The Ferndale drop box has temporarily moved to the front lawn of Ferndale City Council chambers at 5694 2nd Ave.
Reach Ralph Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2289. Read his Politics blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.