Fluoride Action Network

Port Angeles’ fluoridation advisory ballot has strange twist for election system [Corrected]

Source: Peninsula Daily News | July 28th, 2015 | By Paul Gottlieb, Senior Staff Writer
Industry type: Delta Dental

Corrected to reflect that the City Council held an advisory vote in 1975 but fluoridation didn’t begin until 2006.

PORT ANGELES — The City Council’s insistence on expanding the reach of a Nov. 3 fluoridation advisory ballot election beyond the city limit has created one of the more unusual twists in the county’s election history.

The city voters and Clallam County Public Utility District residents will be asked if the city should continue fluoridating drinking water after May 18, 2016, when the city’s obligation to fluoridate runs out under an agreement with the Washington Dental Service Foundation, a nonprofit funded by Delta Dental of Washington.

But Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said the county cannot mail ballots solely to more than 1,550 utility district addresses that receive city water because ballots are mailed by precincts, not geographic areas that contain portions of precincts.

“We won’t sort it out by residential [utility district] voters,” City Manager Dan McKeen said.

“We are exploring the option of working with the utility district to get a similar ballot out, although not through the auditor.”

The county Elections Office will mail the ballot to registered city voters that number 11,388 as of Monday.

City Council members will discuss the ballot language and their options for the election at a special meeting tonight from 7 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The utility district customers live in Gales Addition and the Monroe Road and Mount Angeles Road areas just east of the city limit, utility district spokesman Mike Howe said Monday.

Howe said the utility district does not know how many people live in homes that receive city water, but 1,550 utility district addresses receive city water.

McKeen said another method will be found to include them, maybe through a ballot flier mailed out by the city to utility district customers — even if they are not registered voters.

The number of ballot fliers that would be sent to each household and who will count the results also has not been determined, McKeen said.

The city may have a third party count the ballots rather than city workers.

“We’re just going to have to work through those issues, and by the end of [today], by the work session that we have, a lot of these questions should be answered,” McKeen said.

“If you hear about another situation like this, let me know.”

The city will automatically continue to inject the mineral additive into the water supply after May 18, 2016, unless the City Council decides otherwise.

McKeen was to meet with City Attorney Bill Bloor and City Clerk Jennifer Veneklasen Monday afternoon to discuss the election.

Bloor said the nonbinding advisory ballot will remain valid even though all utility district customers, including unregistered voters, would receive the unofficial ballots.

Council members voted 4-3 on July 21 to put the measure on the general election ballot after a lengthy public comment session at which 11 residents were opposed to fluoridation and seven favored it.

In a 1975 advisory ballot election, Port Angeles residents overwhelmingly voted against fluoridation. Fluoridation began May 18, 2006.

At their meeting today, council members also will set public hearing dates on city fluoridation in October and December.

There is no scheduled public comment period scheduled for tonight’s meeting.

It will be preceded by a council work session on the 2016 budget.