By Stefanie Donahue
Staff at the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office is taking the first steps in what will be a months-long process to adjust voter precincts throughout the county.
The changes are a result of the 2015 general election, when Whatcom County voters approved an update to county council representation, moving from three districts to five. Eventually, each district will vote on a single representative and only two at-large positions will go up for a countywide vote.
Blaine, Birch Bay and Point Roberts will fall under the new coastal district and will no longer be represented by council members Barbara Brenner and Carl Weimer after their terms expire. Both Brenner and Weimer are residents of the new farmlands district.
While the updated precinct map doesn’t impact voters, it’s necessary to make adjustments, said Whatcom County Auditor Debbie Adelstein.
Whatcom County’s 178 precincts must fall under new district lines. Ultimately, the initiative opens the door to improvement. A few precincts, she explained, are in need of balance.
Ferndale’s precinct 505, for example, has 1,148 voters, while precinct 504, which sits right next door, has 457 voters, she said. The same goes for Lynden-based precinct 601 with 1,092 voters and precinct 605 with 473 voters. A Washington state statute recommends 1,200 per precinct, she said.
The wide variation between precincts “just didn’t make any sense,” she said. However, the imbalance is no cause for concern, she said. Large precincts are more challenging to manage and if they get too small, it’s easier to detect voting patterns, she said.
In the meantime, voters should expect to see the proposal ready for public discussion in early September, she said. The updated precinct map will go into effect after the 2016 general election.