Officials call ‘under surveillance’ signs placed near ballot drop boxes voter intimidation

SEATTLE — King County Elections officials said “intimidating” signs placed near ballot drop boxes in King County appeared to be “a targeted effort … to intimidate and dissuade voters from using secure ballot drop boxes.”

The county’s election director said she has asked the King County sheriff to investigate what appears to be voter intimidation, which is illegal at both the state and federal levels.

As the August primary election approached, elections officials started getting reports about the signs, which said in red letters: “This ballot dropbox is under surveillance.”

Underneath that was text citing a state code: “Accepting compensation for harvesting or depositing ballots may be a violation of Federal Law.”

At the bottom, there was a QR code — a small, digitally encoded pattern of squares and dots designed to be read by a smartphone scanner — to report suspicious activity.

When the QR code is scanned, it takes you to an election incident reporting form on the King County Republican Party’s website.

Michael Patrick Thomas, Chair of the King County Republican Party, said party officials were unaware of the signs, which were created by a “self-appointed committee, which calls itself the KCGOP Election Integrity Committee has acted outside of its authority and without the express knowledge, permission, or consent of the King County Republican Party.”

Thomas has dissolved the committee and requested that all signs be picked up.

Meanwhile, county elections officials say they won’t stand for intimidation or scare tactics.

King County Elections Director Julie Wise said her team is documenting and removing the signs. Wise said any information about who placed them is being referred to the sheriff’s office.

Elections officials called the placement of the signs serious offenses that would be fully investigated, so those who posted them would be held accountable.

“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.

“Under state law, it is a crime to intimidate voters in an effort to discourage them from depositing their ballots in a drop box. Under federal law, it is a crime whenever two or more people conspire to prevent or discourage people from exercising their constitutional right to vote,” a news release from King County Elections said.