This is a Followup on the Fourth Corner Coverage at: “BREAKING: Local Candidate for county At-Large seat told by County staff to alter Statement in Voter Pamphlet”

After the Whatcom County Council At-Large Candidate Mike Peetoom’s appeal of the Auditor’s request to alter his candidate statement in the Voter’s Pamphlet the Prosecutor’s office issued this statement:

From: Karen Frakes
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2018 11:20 AM
To: Debbie Adelstein
Subject: Candidate Statement Review

Debbie—

I am writing to document my decision on the appeal of the partial rejection of the candidate statement of Mike Peetoom.  After reviewing the applicable law, I have determined that the statement adequately complies with legal requirements and should be accepted for inclusion in the voters’ pamphlet.  Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns in reference to this matter.

Sincerely,

  • Karen N. Frakes
  • Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
  • Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office
  • 311 Grand Ave., Suite 201
  • Bellingham, WA  98225

When asked about the outcome Auditor Debbie Adelstein stated: “The Process Worked…”

Mike Peetoom’s comment was: “Our free speech is a common man principle the bureaucracy doesn’t like. We stood for this principle and we’d do it again.”

 

What is the process and how does the review of candidate statements work?

 

Auditor Debbie Adelstein

Auditor Debbie Adelstein granted an interview with The Fourth Corner to cover these questions. The deputy Auditor was present and The Fourth Corner learned the following about the process and what is involved.

 

THE PROCESS

All Candidates work is reviewed for form and content before being approved for publication in the Whatcom County Voter’s pamphlet.

  1. Staff looks at the statement for form: number of words paragraphs etc. to make certain that the allocated space for the candidate can contain the statement.
    1. Staff helps the candidate; by defining the parameters; get into compliance but has strict time constraints for publication.
  2. Staff looks at the statement for content: if staff believes there is a need to change content the Auditor is the last point of review in the auditors office.
    1. Staff will help the candidate come into compliance if requested but has strict time constraints for publication.
  3. If a candidate does not believe that the content should be changed he/she has the right to get an opinion from the Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
  4. The Prosecutor has the final say on whether the Statement must be adjusted.

BACKGROUND:

In 2005 the Charter Review Commission submitted several amendments to the voters this one… creating the need for production of a local voter’s pamphlet for the first time.

Charter Amendment #3
Shall Charter section 3.52 – Powers and Duties- be amended to add to the duties of the
Auditor, “Shall publish and distribute a local voter’s pamphlet for all primary and general
elections.”  Complete list of amendments for 2005 here.    This amendment passed a vote of the people by over 60%.
Implementation:
The County Auditor had to decide how to implement the requirement for a local pamphlet and what their responsibility was.  For example, only local candidates and issues will be included in the County version of the Voter’s Pamphlet. So state legislator’s Statements, Statewide Initiatives and Precinct Committee Officers arguments and statements are not the Auditor’s responsibility and thus are not reviewed by the Auditor..
This local implementation has been codified in Guidelines here and County Election Department Policy Here.
Review of Statements:
Reviews of form and content are both conducted before the Pamphlet is submitted to the printer for publication.
Form: this is the number of words and paragraphs to get the statement to fit in a format that allows for consistent publication of the document.
The point of contention in this case was the review of the content:
Content: The local auditor uses the RCW passed by the state as its guideline here at
From the Adminstrative rule in the RCW
“3) The basis for rejection of any explanatory or candidates’ statement or argument deemed to be libelous or otherwise inappropriate.  Any statements by a candidate shall be limited to those about the candidate himself or herself.”

Appeal: This was the first time that anyone could remember a case like this going to the

Whatcom County Courthouse

Prosecuting Attorney as called for in the guidelines.

The result of the appeal process was the response of Attorney Frakes in the Statement above. The Prosecutor’s office believed the statement to be within the guidelines of the RCW and county guidelines.
In this case the process worked and the process was open and transparent and all staff were clear and concise in the implementation.

In Conclusion:

Kudos to Mike Peetoom for bringing up the issue and following through on his contention his statements were proper and Kudos to the Auditor’s office for professional management of her office’s functions concerning Candidate Statements.

NOTE!!!

Interested in what the auditor does in our County Government?

Click here for their annual report.  You might be surprised at what they do and how much elections cost as well. All that is presented in this 22 page report.

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