Whatcom Alert: Your right to vote for sheriff

Whatcom Alert: Your right to vote for sheriff

This evening, Tuesday, Aug. 8, Councilmember Todd Donovan intends to propose resolution AB2023-518, a “Resolution proposing an amendment to the Whatcom County Charter to define the Sheriff as an appointed rather than elected position.” Following up on our email from last week, this is a significant suggested change, and we need your input.

The Whatcom County Council chambers are located at 311 Grand Avenue in Bellingham. Meetings typically begin at 6PM. You can also click here to learn how to attend and provide public comment remotely. 

While Councilmember Donovan says this change would help insulate the sheriff from “the forces of partisan politics” the truth is it would do the opposite: appointing Whatcom County’s Sheriff takes power away from the voters and places it into the insular hands of a few politicians.

This proposal is problematic. At a basic level, it takes away the authority of you – the voter – and redistributes power in the hands of politicians. Currently, candidates for sheriff are required to go and meet the public, knock on doors, and are connected to the community in a grassroots manner. Appointing a sheriff removes this. As the chief law enforcement officer in Whatcom County, the Sheriff provides a check and balance on other elected officials, which is why protecting the independence of the office is critical. If voters do not like the way the Sheriff represents them and enforces the law, they can vote the Sheriff out of office.

Electing the Sheriff has historically been the process not just in Whatcom County or Washington, but throughout the country. The Sheriff is elected by a vote of the people and is accountable to the people. Nearly every county in America elects their Sheriff. King County recently changed their process and started appointing their Sheriff. Interestingly, the Council appointed a Sheriff with extremely limited law enforcement background – a glaring problem for Councilmember Donovan’s claim that changing this process would increase the likelihood of hiring experienced sheriffs.

At the end of the day, good intentions don’t always equate to good policy. Regardless of the intentions, this proposal will undermine public safety, public confidence, and public input. Please let the County Council and County Executive know your opinion and share with them that you don’t want them to take away our voice in picking the next Sheriff to enforce our laws that protect you and your family.

Submit a public comment to the County Council 

If you cannot attend this meeting in person, please consider making a public comment using the link above.

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