SEATTLE (AP) — An elections director in Washington state’s most populous county says her office is asking the sheriff’s office to investigate people who planted signs near ballot boxes warning voters they were “under surveillance.”
In a statement Tuesday evening, King County Elections Director Julie Wise blasted what she called an effort to scare voters, The Seattle Times reported.
“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 not when they are simply trying to make their voices heard,” Wise said.
The signs were posted near ballot boxes in Seattle and suburban locations, with red letters warning the boxes were “Under Surveillance” and saying that accepting money “for harvesting or depositing ballots” may violate federal law.
The signs included a scannable QR code that linked to a King County Republican Party website and form encouraging people to submit “incident reports.”
Wise said her team is “documenting and removing” the signs and would refer “any information about who planted them to the King County Sheriff’s Office for further investigation.”
Halei Watkins, a spokesperson for King County Elections, said Tuesday that King County Executive Dow Constantine has directed Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall to investigate.
Mathew Patrick Thomas, chair of the King County Republicans, said Monday evening he was disbanding the county party’s so-called election integrity committee and said its members were involved in printing and planting the signs without his knowledge.
Amber Krabach, a state legislative candidate and one of the leaders of that committee, said Monday the signs shouldn’t have bothered anyone not attempting illegal activity. She didn’t immediately respond to an email Tuesday evening.
Thomas said the party would fully cooperate with King County Elections and would take legal action if any groups or individuals “misappropriate” the party’s name for “any unsanctioned or ill-intentioned use.”
People are allowed to legally observe the voting process, including drop boxes, but observers are not allowed to interfere with voters or intimidate them.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said in a statement issued by King County Elections that Washington law allows 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,” Satterberg said.
The drop box watching effort appears connected to a broader statewide campaign by activists who claim on a website to be surveilling all ballot boxes in the state.
That effort, according to the website, is motivated by a former President Donald Trump-praised movie called “2000 Mules,” which asserts the 2020 election was stolen from Trump by ballot traffickers in swing states. The film’s conclusions have been rebutted as false or unsupported by numerous fact-checking groups and elections experts.
While Trump and allies have attacked the expanded use of ballot drop boxes in the 2020 election, claiming fraud, an Associated Press survey of Republican and Democratic state election officials across the U.S. found no cases of fraud, vandalism or theft that could have affected the results.