U.S. Attorney warns of the consequences of voter intimidation before primary elections

An election worker opens envelopes containing vote-by-mail ballots for the August 4 Washington state primary at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on August 3, 2020. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown issued a statement on Thursday, warning the public about the consequences for voter intimidation ahead of the primary and general election periods. 

Washington state's 2022 Primary Election takes place on Tuesday, Aug. 2, and features races for U.S. Senate and Congress, as well as Washington Secretary of State and Washington Supreme Court. In many counties, local offices will appear on the ballot as well.

Ballots were mailed out to voters in Western Washington on July 15. As voters mark their primary ballots and prepare to use ballot drop boxes throughout the region, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown issued the following statement:

"Voter intimidation is a federal crime and any attempt to harass or discourage citizens from voting at our state’s secure election drop boxes will be investigated and prosecuted in federal court. We recognize and revere the First Amendment right to free speech and political debate. But there is a time when protected speech turns into acts of intimidation or threats of violence. We will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate threats of violence, hate crimes, and any effort to intimidate voters or those tasked with ensuring free and fair elections in our state."

RELATED: Washington Voter Guide 2022: What's on the ballot, important dates to know

According to Thursday's release, intimidating or threatening another person to discourage them from voting is a felony under federal law, punishable by up to five years in prison. 

Federal law also prohibits:

  • Bribing voters
  • Buying and selling votes
  • Impersonating voters
  • Altering vote tallies
  • Stuffing ballot boxes
  • Marking ballots for voters against their will or input

The right of voters to mark their own ballot, or be assisted by a person of choice is also protected under federal law.

According to U.S. Attorney Nick Brown, any reports of voter intimidation or threats will be investigated by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. 

Anyone who believes they are a victim of voter intimidation is asked to contact District Election Officer Seth Wilkinson at 206-553-7973, and leave a message with the Civil Rights complaint hotline.

For information on what is on the ballot and important dates to know, click here.

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