Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 8, 2013

Friday Odds and Ends: Frequently Asked Questions

Hello Loyal Readers,

Welcome to the Friday after election day. Phew. Wasn’t that something? After the smoke has cleared, there are still several leftover questions. I will try and answer some of those in today’s Odds and Ends.

But first, another shot of the victory party

But first, another shot of the victory party. Credit Paul Anderson

Will Renata Kowalczyk win? In case you missed the Auditor update yesterday (2 hrs late, naturally), Renata gained 300 votes putting her just 821 votes behind her opponent, Dan Robbins. There are 8,000 votes left to count, so Renata has to capture 55% of the remaining ballots. That is actually quite possible, early calculations (hat tip David Stalheim) show that the remaining ballots are mostly likely from Bellingham. Considering that Renata is currently winning 63% of the Bellingham ballots, it is quite likely that this race could seriously tighten up by the next count.


Renata – still in the fight

What about Mike McAuley or the County Council races? They are fine. As I mentioned above, the remaining ballots are most likely Bellingham ballots so progressives have little to fear for McAuley or the Council candidates. If all the ballots remaining are actually from Lynden? It is possible that McAuley will be in danger, but the council candidates are safe.

What the heck happened to Clayton Petree/Bob Burr/Ken Bell? I will try to answer these questions in my election analysis but I must remind you that no amount of number crunching can accurately answer the question “Why did this person decide to vote this way?” Was it because the candidate knocked on their door? Was it because their name was first on the ballot? Did they see Michelle Luke signwaving in Bellingham? These are tricky questions to answer because the tipping point is always hard to identify. What I can do is look at historical trends and how these candidates compared to previous efforts.

What about that Everson ballot box? Here’s what happened. The election workers unintentionally left the ballot box in Everson closed but unlocked last Friday morning (9:35am) and it was not discovered until the next Saturday morning (10:30am, 25 hours total). Obviously, this raises serious issues about the security of our democracy. Someone could have easily stopped by late to drop off their ballot, discovered the open box, opened the ballots and thrown out the ones they didn’t like, resealing the rest and leaving them there. Obviously a bit of a stretch, but not unthinkable. The natural response would have been to sequester all the ballots that were picked up that day but County Auditor Debbie Adelstein approved mixing them in with the rest, making it impossible to track later. These sort of security concerns cast a shadow on our democracy and I sincerely hope that Adelstein addresses these swiftly.

What happens next with the Political Junkie? After my election analysis, I get back to what I always do, breaking down complex political news into bite-sized pieces. There is some movement on the new jail, the ongoing battle over the waterfront development and of course, the new legislative session kicking off. Furthermore, I am in talks with two new guest columnists to expand our coverage past my usual 2-3 posts a week. So keep tuning in and stay warm out there.



  1. The Everson ballot box problem is thornier than you describe. The canvassing board reviewed the security tie and determined that it was most likely broken by force. It wasn’t wind, it wasn’t left open, it was broken open. There is no way of knowing if there were more ballots inside.

    Earlier this year a ballot box was left open in Ferndale. Clearly there are problems at the auditor’s office. And I am starting to wonder about the wisdom of unattended ballot boxes. Perhaps it would be better to to allow Whatcom County voters to just drop their ballots in the mail – without a stamp – and use the many USPS blue boxes as ballot boxes. Eliminate the poll tax, eliminate unattended ballot boxes, and increase security.

    • I like Lisa’s suggestion, but have a question. I heard that our mail is trucked somewhere else for sorting, and that it is possible something posted by 5 p.m. wouldn’t get the same day’s postmark. Is that true and, if so, is there a way to alleviate that issue?

  2. I don’t trust a mail box for anything else important either. and please don’t tell me that a plastic zip tie is the only thing holding a ballot box closed?

  3. Lisa; It does appear that work is needed on the management of the drop-boxes, and I do fully support review and efforts to maintain integrity in the system. But I have some strong questions about our USPS.

    Most significant is the reported circumstance of the delay from when the public puts an item in an outgoing mailbox, and when it gets date-stamped – reportedly in some city near Seattle? This delay seems to invalidate many ballots, when the voter mails it “too late” to get stamped by Tuesday. That needs some factual study, and then will need some public education, based on that study. (True, however, to do the education, even if nothing is changed.)

    Another, which should at least be reviewed and explained, is the travel path and handling of the USPS mailed ballots, between the hand of the voter at the blue boxes, and the delivery into the Auditors’ office. How many workers (Postal? Contractors?) handle the ballots? Are there always TWO workers present when the envelopes are being handled, as is the policy within the Election office?


  4. “What happened with Clayton Petree?”

    CP underperformed compared to how he would do in a one-on-one, isolated matchup between him and his City Council opponent, considered in isolation. Trouble is (from Petree’s standpoint), to some extent candidates were “packaged” in voters’ minds by their associations with a ticket.

    CP was dragged way down by his association in B’hamsters’ perceptions with the Republican ticket. I don’t think that CP was even really measured as a candidate per se, because his candidacy was poison-pilled from the git-go by what many considered “his” ticket. Was this fair? Hell no!


  5. I offer a nod to Clayton for his running a good race as I’m sure that really takes a lot of work, so I commend him for his efforts. However, I believe his endorser list likely played a significant part in people not voting for him, more so than compared to him being associated with some political party ticket. At least that was why I was not rooting for him to win the city council seat he wanted. The bulk of his endorsers backing him are the same people and groups that try to lessen or ignore environmental protections and regulations, and for me, that is a big problem. His father’s name recognition and reputation that goes with that in terms of his politics (not personal reputation) probably does not help either in winning over more progressive-minded people.

    • And the “endorser list” is why I didn’t vote for the “progressive” slate.

  6. I am sorry to see your sniping at the Elections process. I think you need to do a bit more research into the handling of the open box, and the Canvassing Board’s examination of the ballots that were allowed to go through. They were thoroughly examined for evidence of tampering by a very bi-partisan group at a public meeting. Your snide remarks about the time the ballots get out do not match with your intelligent analysis of elections and show some ignorance of the process necessary for accurate vote tabulation.
    You know that I am one of your fans.

    • I don’t mean disrespect but when there is not confidence in the process – it is not criticism of the individuals who have volunteered their time for this – it is speaking to the process as a whole. People do not know if their vote is secure

      • Like Cook county Illinois in 2008 and 2012?

    • My snide remarks about the timing of the results were from the posted time the results were to be released (3pm) to the time they were actually released (5:15pm). That has since been clarified.

  7. More ballots are being processed in the Auditors’ Office today (Friday), with an expanded team – I have from an insider.

    One of the lead Observers, Jim Fox, says he will write an expanded report on these topics. And I hope that (we-old-timers) we can assemble a broad, plain-language item that explains the whole process to the public.

  8. It is a relief to me that Marian is on the case. I trust her diligence on this voting process over the years. If anyone needs to blow the whistle I think she would. Let’s not tinker with a process that has helped increase numbers of people actually voting by worrying about a “conspiracy”. Maybe somebody wanted to get their own ballot back or dropped their keys or? ?????Heaven knows what gets into those boxes. Perhaps more frequent pickups or more secure locks would alleviate worries.

    • I definitely DO want to blow the whistle if I find that the election system does not have integrity! Kay is right.

      The unofficial story I have heard from another watcher, is that the lock design on the retrieval-door of the drop-box is kinda peculiar – it is (may be – I have not studied it myself) a cylinder, and it takes a cylindrical key, which has to be moved “just right”.

      And that Auditor Deb is already considering a change in the model.

      Let’s verify these things, and insist that they be done right. I have two friends who are locksmiths – I bet they would agree to go look at these locks. (And most of you know who they are.)

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