Bellingham, Whatcom County, Washington
Mission Statement - 2010:
Whatcom Fair Voting (WFV) is a non-partisan ad-hoc grassroots citizens group working to promote electoral process integrity by:
WFV meets monthly at a time selected as convenient by the people who are actively involved. Any local person is welcome who agrees to respect our meeting rules, to be non-partisan and respectful, and to support our Mission Statement.
We currently meet at .....(ask us where, since this may change from time to time.)
Moderated On-Line Discussion:
You may join the WFV on-line discussion by sending an email message
We encourage newcomers to introduce themselves to the group. If you join the email-group, please send a very brief bio to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, city, interests or experiences, etc.
Whatcom Fair Voting
A History and Guide for Newcomers
Whatcom Fair Voting is an informal group of individuals committed to meeting monthly and sharing responsibilities among ourselves as needed. It has no officers, dues or other income, nor status as a PAC or 501c3 or other organization. The group makes decisions by consensus.
WFV was started in Bellingham in late 2002, following a presentation by author Stephen Hill, "Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner-take-all Politics," on the distortion of democracy produced by various aspects of our current voting system. Initially, the group focused on structural change options such as Instant Runoff Voting, Multi-Member Districts, and Proportional Representation--and we expect in the future to renew attention to these extremely important topics.
But the passage, in 2002, of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), impacting every aspect of the voting process and offering states federal funds to replace voting equipment, created an urgent need to address equipment vulnerabilities. In particular, proposals for paperless electronic voting machines or internet voting, with no hard copy record capable of being re-counted or audited, created a real threat to election integrity and public confidence.
Whatcom County had been using punch-card ballots for about 20 years. Also, our voting public had gradually shifted to using the optional "permanent absentee" mailed-ballots which Washington State law allows, being then about 70% "absentee" / 30% poll-voters. A proposal in 2004 by the Whatcom County Auditor to move to 100% Vote-by-Mail (VBM) led to an intensive study of that voting system by WFV. That review ended in WFV's supporting the adoption of VBM in Whatcom County, conditional on the creation of an official citizens committee that would, among other responsibilities, follow up unresolved issues and concerns regarding the new system. The County began VBM in September, 2005.
In January 2005, a Whatcom County Citizens Election Advisory Committee (CEAC) was created by the County Auditor's Office, and began to work in partnership with that administration. WFV holds a seat on that group, appointed by the Auditor. CEAC also includes representation by the League of Women Voters, Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, Bellingham City, the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County, the technology community, and the handicapped community. CEAC meets monthly most months to review and discuss a broad range of issues concerning election practice in this county. You may read the CEAC charter at http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/whatcom/Pages/default.aspx - click on "CEAC Charter" .
WFV members who also are associated with the political parties worked with the Auditor's Office to implement a more formal program of volunteer Election Observers. These individuals undergo a training briefing on the office procedures, then may sign-in and observe all of the ballot handling and counting activities at the central office and remote sites, during elections.
To verify the accuracy of optical scanning equipment purchased with HAVA funds, and to bolster public confidence in the elections process, WFV has actively encouraged Whatcom County political parties to request hand recounts of randomly selected precincts (or more recently, random batches of mixed-precinct ballots). State law requires that this be done if all the major political parties request it of the County Elections Division. WFV has been instrumental in setting up the publicly-conducted random-selection process used to pick: a) the batches of ballots, and b) the races to be double-checked for verification of the machine-counts. These random recounts have been successfully conducted in elections from 2005 to 2011. Recently, both County Party Chairs submitted a joint letter to the County requesting such a hand-count "as standing policy”.
A number of WFV members are politically engaged on an individual basis, working to craft and support voting legislation, as well as to oppose bad proposals.
Major successes have included the passage in April 2005 of legislation requiring all elections systems in Washington State provide a voter-verifiable paper ballot. In addition, a proposal was defeated that would have permitted internet voting, which would have no possible system of voter-verified paper ballots, thus no ability to conduct any audits of the election results. A WFV member even testified to a hearing of a Federal board on a US proposal for internet voting, and shortly thereafter, that project ("SERVE") was quietly scrapped. Other important issues—such as mandatory, statewide, random audits of all election results—are still on the table.
WFV has worked to educate the public by conducting the following studies and well-attended forums:
Currently, the HAVA-mandated requirement that states create integrated voter registration rolls is drawing our group's attention. Concerns over violations in either direction bring questions from the public. Are qualified voters being excluded? Are unqualified persons casting ballots, or some qualified voters casting more than one ballot, such as in multiple counties or states?
Several WFV participants have expressed interest in researching voter registration, and specifically the ongoing attempt to assure that only statutorily-qualified individuals are registered, while also assuring that no qualified voter will be removed from the rolls.. The key question is how to design adequate registration controls without creating barriers to full participation by legitimate voters.
On February 24, 2007, WFV and cosponsors LWV, Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans presented a forum on this timely and controversial issue.
WFV continues its interest in VBM trail-of-custody issues, as well as potential changes in the structure of elections, such as Instant Runoff Voting and Proportional Representation.