King County officials on Sunday urged voters not to hand their ballots over to strangers.
The only way to guarantee a ballot will be counted is to mail it or drop it off at an offical King County elections site, said Democratic King County Executive Dow Constantine, joined by Sherill Huff, the county’s elections director.
“We are strongly advising citizens if they want to be sure their ballot is counted, don’t hand your ballot over to someone you don’t know,” Constantine said.
Huff said she had received complaints from residents, concerned about people going door-to-door collecting ballots. The effort is part of a Republican get-out-vote push. King County Republicans have also set up 10 collection vans in suburban parts of the county.
It’s not illegal to collect ballots for delivery, Huff said. Nor is there anything wrong with giving your ballot to someone else. Church and community groups commonly collect and deliver ballots, Constantine said. The danger lies is dealing with someone you don’t know, he said.
Secretary of State Sam Reed issued a statement Sunday saying “We strongly discourage such activity, but it’s not illegal.”
Democrats mounted similar efforts in previous elections.
Democrats are calling on Secretary of State Sam Reed to denounce a new King County GOP get out the vote tactic they say violates state law.
The “GOP Victory Van program,” announced last week, includes 10 locations where voters can drop their ballots. Staffers at the sites, paid $10 an hour by the King County Republican Party, are promising to deliver the ballots to official county ballot drop-off centers. The staffers are also offering to turn in ballots while going doorbelling at Republican households.
The GOP is touting the program as a way to boost turnout.
“This is called get out the vote,” said Kirby Wilbur, chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. “We’re trying to get every last vote we can.”
Democrats say the tactic is over the line.
“This initiative is as ill-considered as it is unprecedented,” Kevin J. Hamilton, a Washington State Democratic Party attorney, wrote Saturday to Secretary Reed. “There is a reason why nonpartisan election officials conduct our elections and the prospect of having partisan operatives collect voted ballots and return them to the elections office is chilling indeed.”
Reed did not immediately return telephone and email messages Sunday seeking comment.
In a news release, King County officials said the county “strongly discourages giving possession or responsibility for ballots to anyone other than USPS or official King County Elections drop locations.”
County Executive Dow Constantine, a Democrat, and Elections Director Sherril Huff held a news conference in West Seattle this morning to advise voters not to give their ballot to anyone they don’t know.