Friday, September 30, 2016

Why you should check before October 10th...

Editor's note: The deadline for online registration (October 10th) has passed for this year. If you are a new WA state resident you can still walk into the Whatcom County elections office until October 31st to register. For all other questions, please call the Whatcom County Elections office at the contacts here: . Thanks, -RMF

I write this post this every year this time.  The information is worth repeating. Here is an explanation of some of the reasons you should visit sometime before October 10th, the last day to update your voter registration online in the state of WA.  This is especially important if you have recently moved or returned to town!

First, understand exactly what managing a 135,000 strong (Whatcom) county voter database in a county with 30,000 college students looks: Lots of 'flux', lots additions, lots of deletions, lots of "coming and going", lots of *CHANGE*.  And  that change is hardly  just college students. Here are some quick indexes of that change. I included the R data.table code:
vdb[StatusCode == "A" & year(mdy(OriginalRegistrationDate)) == 2016 ,.N]
[1] 10298  # 10,298 original registrations have been processed in 2016 of currently "Active" voters.

vdb[StatusCode == "A" & year(ymd_hms(LastUpdateDate)) == 2016 ,.N]
[1] 25468 #  25,468 registrations  of the currently "Active" voters have been updated in 2016 for a variety of reasons.

If we looked at the top ten reasons for updates to the current active voter database, they would look like this:

vdb[StatusCode == "A",.N,by=StatusReason][order(-N)]
                                       StatusReason     N
 1:               Added by WEI Statewide Online Reg 20438
 2:       Third Party Change of Address (In-County) 19793
 3:                     Re-registration; no changes 15579
 4:                                                 13908
 5:                           Original Registration 12743
 6:                 Address Updated by WEI Addr Chg 11199
 7:                    Updated by WEI Statewide ACS 10286
 8:           Re-registration due to Address change  9857
 9:     A - Phone/Email update from ballot envelope  8624
10:                               Office Correction  5239

Updating the status of voters in Whatcom County (actually any county) is essentially a full time job for an entire group of county election workers. In fact, there is a separate group called "ERIC" that assists WA state in this process and recently two separate "ERIC" updates are in process at Whatcom County elections. Now, I don't want to cast aspersions or seed doubt, but it is a very big world we live in and mistakes can happen! Name collision just happens. For example, there are 17 active voters with my last name in Whatcom County, none of whom I have ever met or know anything about!

So, if you want to make sure you receive your ballot, if you want to make sure you can vote this election.... You should check sometime before October 10th, make sure your address information is correct, make sure your voter status is "Active" and take appropriate action if you are not! If you are confused, you can contact the WC Elections office by phone ( 360-778-5102 or in person) to straighten out any issues you have. While you are at, you can look at the official state "Voter's Guide" to browse through candidates and issues.

You can also visit Whatcom County websites to preview a sample ballot and check ballot drop box locations! Here are some dates from Whatcom County Elections:
  • Election Date: November 8, 2016
  • Ballots Mailed: October 19, 2016
  • Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, November 8, 2016.  $0.68 postage required.
  • Drop Box:  No postage necessary. Drop boxes will open on October 19 and will close at 8:00 pm on Election Day
Many of us know that not everyone has web access. Not everyone has a Facebook page! For reasons that are a little complicated to explain, 1956 seems to be the birth year demarcating the "digital divide". So after you check your voter status online, if you know of someone that might need some help, you can offer to check their voter status for them. That might be a very nice thing to do and you might be surprised not just how many aging voters might appreciate that offer of help, but how many very busy, high school seniors or college freshmen might as well!

Remember: If you are a citizen, if you live in Whatcom County, If you will be 18 years of age or older by November 8th, *YOU CAN VOTE IN WA* !!!! And you really should...

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