Local Election

Whatcom charter: District-only voting, 5 districts lead

Proposition 1 to amend the Whatcom County charter — “district-only voting” — was leading in early returns on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Rural conservatives lobbied for this amendment, and coal-terminal proponent SSA Marine backed it financially, in order to change the way county council members are elected.

However, progressives were getting their way with the initial results for Proposition 9. The countermeasure to Prop. 1 from the political left to change the number of districts from three to five was winning, according to Tuesday’s results.

Both measures had a 54 percent to 46 percent lead, with thousands of ballots left to count.

A third proposal, creating term limits for the county council and executive, has a large lead and will pass.

“We’re celebrating tonight. It’s a victory dance for sure,” said Iris Maute-Gibson of Fair & Equal Whatcom, which campaigned for Prop. 9 and against Prop. 1.

Progressives and conservatives battled all year over proposed election changes. Conservatives advanced district-only voting to replace the current countywide voting for council members. They said countywide voting favors progressive candidates and doesn’t allow fair representation for the conservative district that includes Lynden.

Progressives responded with a five-district proposal that would be more likely to maintain a progressive majority on the seven-member council.

Crina Hoyer, executive director at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities — which also campaigned for Prop. 9 — said it made Prop. 1 acceptable.

“If 9 had failed and 1 had passed, it would have locked in minority rule. That scenario was one that I could not imagine,” Hoyer said.

On the other side, Karl Uppiano of DOVE Whatcom had campaigned for Prop. 1 and against Prop. 9.

“What I was hoping for was that 9 would fail, and then we’d take another run at it,” Uppiano said.

He wasn’t opposed to redrawing the districts, he said, just to the hasty and possibly untenable way the five-district proposal was put together.

“It may end up in court,” he said.

The measure limiting the executive and County Council members to three four-year terms had 70 percent of the vote Tuesday. Terms won’t start counting toward the limit until after this election.

The Whatcom County Auditor’s Office expects a backlog of mailed ballots to arrive on Wednesday, Nov. 4; the office received only 37 ballots by mail on Tuesday. This will make for large additions to the total count on Wednesday and Thursday, Chief Deputy Auditor Diana Bradrick said.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.