Local

Whatcom voters save county money by using ballot boxes

Volunteer election worker Carol Lord takes ballots from voters Nov. 5, 2012, at the drive-thru ballot drop-off at the Whatcom County Courthouse south parking lot in Bellingham. Voters used ballot boxes in record numbers in the Nov. 3, 2015, election.
Volunteer election worker Carol Lord takes ballots from voters Nov. 5, 2012, at the drive-thru ballot drop-off at the Whatcom County Courthouse south parking lot in Bellingham. Voters used ballot boxes in record numbers in the Nov. 3, 2015, election. The Bellingham Herald

The Whatcom County elections office will spend less on postage for overweight ballots than it first anticipated.

The county auditor reported on Friday, Nov. 6, that about two-thirds of ballots were returned through the 14 drop boxes stationed throughout the county. About one-third came through the mail, and 0.1 percent were faxed or emailed, Auditor Debbie Adelstein said.

In recent elections, the amount of ballots returned in the mail had been 45 or 50 percent, Adelstein said.

So instead of $7,700 spent on additional postage, as first estimated, the auditor said on Monday, Nov. 9, the county will pay $4,686 for postage due on ballots from the November election.

33.6% Whatcom ballots returned through the mail

$4,686 Cost to county of postage due on overweight ballots

“Voters chose to use the ballot drop boxes at a record-high level, and the extra cost to be incurred for extra postage won’t be as high as it could have been,” Adelstein said in an email to the media on Friday.

The auditor on Monday did not know the full cost of this year’s general election. For one thing, the county had not yet been billed for the voters guide, Adelstein said. Chief Deputy Auditor Diana Bradrick has said odd-year general elections typically cost $420,000 to $450,000.

Whatcom ballots were unusually heavy this year, owing primarily to 10 charter amendments, most of which were introduced by the Charter Review Commission. The group meets once a decade to propose changes to the county charter, which is essentially the county’s constitution.

The Auditor’s Office said on election materials the ballot would require only a 49-cent stamp. After the post office started receiving ballots, it discovered they were slightly overweight, and proper postage would be a 49-cent stamp and a 22-cent stamp.

The post office delivered all ballots, even those with insufficient postage, with the county on the hook for the postage due.

Only about 120 ballots remained to be counted on Monday, Adelstein said. None of the contests were going to be close enough to require a recount.

The results will become official after the county certifies the election on Nov. 24.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com.

  Comments