Approve Proposition 9
Five fair and equal districts for all of Whatcom County!
5 Fair and Equal Districts
5 Fair and Equal districts is the fairest way to ensure that all voters in Whatcom County have an equal voice. In our current 3 districts, each district contains part of Bellingham. We need a system where rural residents can elect representatives who understand rural issues and city residents can elect representatives who understand urban issues.
This proposal is silent on district-only or county-wide voting in November. Regardless of how we vote, we need fair representation in our districts.
Once voters decide they want 5 districts then a redistricting committee will be formed. They will meet and determine the final boundaries and ensure that districts are compact and do not divide communities. This is what state law provides.
The trouble with District-only voting (proposition 1)
You will only be able to vote for 3 of the 7 county councilmembers. Today with countywide voting, you get to decide on all 7. The County Council determines land use, manages most of the land around Lake Whatcom, oversees the criminal justice system, where growth occurs and property taxes. It helps to have all 7 answerable to each voter!
Proposition 1 – district-only voting – is so poorly designed that it may even be illegal under Washington law. District lines are not allowed to divide communities, but the current three districts do just that, gerrymandering our county so that the voices of some will be drowned out, while others are given an unfair level of influence. If we are going to vote by district, we need a new set of districts that are set up fairly and legally.
The proposal for District-only voting isn’t about representation; it’s about politics. An extreme Tea Party faction didn’t like the outcome of the last election so now they want to change the rules we’ve used for decades to get a different result.
One of the Charter Review Commissioners even admitted in an email that the reason for District-only voting was to permit the coal terminal at Cherry Point! Regardless of your position on the terminal, it doesn’t make sense for the coal industry to rig our local elections. We will all lose under that scenario.
We tried District-only voting 10 years ago. After one election the voters decided to return to countywide voting in November.
Why 3 districts no longer fit Whatcom County
Whatcom County has doubled in size since we adopted our charter. It’s time for our districts to grow too.
State law requires that districts be as compact as possible and not divide communities of interest. Our current districts – long pie shapes that divide Bellingham into thirds – could not be LESS compact. New districts that are a better fit for our geography make a lot of sense.
The current District-Only proposal with just 3 districts is unfair to rural county residents. All 3 districts include parts of Bellingham, which means that all rural voters will have to compete with Bellingham voters in every County Council election. Rural voters deserve voting districts that don’t include Bellingham, so that they have their own representatives.
The current 3 districts are a relic of our commissioner system that we left behind in the 1970s because it led to pork barrel politics. All other charter counties in Washington have from 5 to 9 districts so that each community gets its own voice.