RENTON, WA — With primary voting underway through Aug. 2, King County Elections is investigating the unauthorized placement of several signs near ballot drop boxes claiming they are “under surveillance.” In a news release, election officials said they received the first reports of “suspicious and intimidating” signs shortly after ballots were delivered to voters last weekend.
The Seattle Times reported on the signs Monday, which were spotted next to drop boxes around Seattle, Issaquah and Redmond. The signs featured a QR code, directing people to file “election incident” reports, with a link leading to an online form on the King County Republican Party’s website.
On Tuesday, King County Elections said the signs appeared to be “a targeted effort undertaken by party-affiliated activists,” which likely run afoul of state and federal laws against voter intimidation.
“King County Elections will not stand for intimidation or scare tactics,” said Julie Wise, director at King County Elections. “I believe this is a targeted, intentional strategy to intimidate and dissuade voters from using secure ballot drop boxes. My team is not going to stand by and allow any group to seed fear and doubt amongst our residents and voters, especially when they are simply trying to make their voices heard. My team is documenting and removing these signs and referring any information about who placed them to the King County Sheriff’s Office for further investigation.”
While in-person observers are permitted at any drop box location, the law prohibits them from interfering, intimidating or discouraging voters, and King County officials said suggesting people are under video surveillance at the ballot box meets the criteria.
“There are many ways curious or concerned voters can observe and engage in our electoral process,” said Dan Satterberg, the King County Prosecuting Attorney. “However, voter intimidation is not one of them. Washington law permits voters to drop off ballots for others. Signs intended to make voters feel like they are being watched and monitored and violating the law by depositing ballots is voter intimidation, period.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine said he directed the sheriff to investigate who placed the signs, which could lead to filing charges. According to King County Elections, the chair of the King County Republican Party also requested members remove the signs.
“We truly appreciate the quick action of the King County GOP Chair, Mathew Patrick Thomas,” Wise said. “We will continue to work together with voters, party leaders, and others to ensure our elections are accessible, transparent, and secure.”
Source: Bellevue Patch