King County Elections calls for removals of unauthorized signs at ballot drop boxes

After a group of Republican activists organized surveillance of ballot drop boxes in King County, elections officials are calling on the sheriff's office to investigate. 

Signs were posted near ballot boxes in several Seattle-area locations over the weekend, as well as eastside locations like Redmond and Issaquah. They had red letters warning the boxes are "Under Surveillance" and stating that accepting money "for harvesting or depositing ballots" may violate federal law, the Seattle Times reported.

A scannable code on the signs pointed to a section of the King County Republican Party website with a form encouraging people to submit "election incident" reports, including photos and video.

A group calling itself "WA Citizens United to Secure Ballot Boxes" is promoting drop-box surveillance, encouraging people to sign up to watch ballot boxes and record video of people "dumping an in ordinate (sic) amount of ballots" and "taking pictures of themselves doing it," according to the organization’s "Drop Box Watch" website.

Voter intimidation is outlawed at both the state and federal levels. No voter should be discouraged from exercising their constitutional right to vote. 

GOP groups organize ballot box surveillance efforts

As midterm voting kicks into high gear, Republican activists in Washington are organizing surveillance of ballot drop boxes, generating complaints and concern from some elections officials.

"King County Elections will not stand for intimidation or scare tactics. 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," stated King County Elections Director Julie Wise. "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."

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.

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."

"Signs intended to make voters feel like they are being watched and monitored and violating the law by depositing ballots is voter intimidation, period," said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.