SEATTLE — Republican activists in Washington state are organizing surveillance of election ballot drop boxes, raising concerns about possible voter intimidation.
Signs were posted over the weekend near ballot boxes in several Seattle-area locations, with red letters warning the boxes are “Under Surveillance” and saying that accepting money “for harvesting or depositing ballots” may violate federal law, The Seattle Times reported.
A scannable code on the signs leads to the King County Republican Party website and a form encouraging people to submit “election incident” reports, including photos and video.
King County Elections spokesperson Halei Watkins said the office received several reports about the signs and called the signs “a little bit worrying.”
While it's legal for people to observe the county’s ballot boxes, Watkins said King County Elections has notified the county prosecutor’s office “to check on the legality” of the effort.
Washington law allows people to drop off legal mail-in ballots for other voters with no restrictions.
Mathew Patrick Thomas, who was elected chairman of the King County Republican Party a few months ago, said he hadn't been aware GOP volunteers were placing signs until King County Elections Director Julie Wise called him. He said he assured Wise he’d “get this rectified.”
Thomas said he called Amber Krabach, a GOP activist and candidate who has helped lead the King County Republicans’ election integrity committee, and said they needed to stop.
By Monday afternoon, Thomas had entirely repudiated the effort, announcing he was dissolving the King County GOP’s election integrity committee.
Thomas said the “self-appointed committee” — created by Joshua Freed, his predecessor as chair — was acting “outside of its authority” and “without the express knowledge, permission or consent” of the King County GOP.
He also sent Krabach a “cease and desist” order demanding the signs be removed and ending any further actions linking surveillance efforts to the King County GOP.
Krabach told the newspaper Monday the signs were placed by volunteers “to act as a deterrent” to anyone getting paid to deliver ballots.
“If they are legally dropping ballots into the box, then the sign shouldn’t bother them,” she said.
Krabach, who is running for the state Legislature as an “Election Integrity Party” candidate, has spread misinformation on social media about the 2020 election and COVID-19 vaccines.
Additionally, a Drop Box Watch Washington website doesn't say who is running it, though it appears motivated by former President Donald Trump’s lies that he lost to Joe Biden due to fraud.
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.
Trump had spent months before the 2020 election warning his supporters to avoid mail-in voting and to vote in person early or on Election Day. Mail-in ballots tabulated after Election Day were expected to and largely did favor Biden.