In the press release below and in an official letter below that from Legal Counsel for the Washington State Democratic Party to Secretary of State Sam Reed, Democrats now at both the King County and State level urge that Reed tell the Republican Party and Rob McKenna to cease using paid canvassers to collect filled out ballots from voters. Such a process breaks the historic chain of custody that has existed in the election process for years, where once the ballot is filled out, it is protected from possible outside tampering and possession. The current Republican canvassing and partisan ballot collecting breaks the official chain of custody from voter to mail box, or drop box or election official, inserting in a step where a paid partisan canvasser has possession of a signed and filled out official ballot. See our previous post on this entitled “Republican Ballot Collection in King County Threatens Integrity of Election
Washington State Democrats Press Release:
For immediate Release
November 3, 2012
Contact: Benton Strong
Washington State Democrats Chair Pelz Calls on Secretary of State Sam Reed to Denounce GOP Ballot Collection Tactics
Seattle — Today, the Washington State Democrats called on Secretary of State Sam Reed to denounce the recently announced practice by the King County Republican Party of sending Republican operatives to collect ballots. The Washington State Republican Party and the campaign of Rob McKenna have recently been recruiting unknown paid canvassers to go door-to-door collecting ballots, leaving their delivery in the hands of partisan political operatives.
Reed, who recently gave $50,000 to the WSRP, should encourage the Republican party to direct voters to return their ballots through official means, either by mail, at a drop box, or at a mobile drop box. As Secretary of State, Reed is responsible for ensuring the independence and integrity of our elections, and this tactic by Republicans threatens that.
“This looks like a campaign that doesn’t know how to run a get out the vote program and is panicking,” said Washington State Democrats Chair Dwight Pelz. “Voters in King County have many ways in which to return their ballots, including by mail, in a drop box, or in a mobile drop box. Republicans should be encouraging people to return their ballot through official means, as we and the County have done, but instead they are creating a situation fraught with the opportunity of voter fraud.”
“We’ve learned a lot about Rob McKenna’s ethics this week — from taxpayer-funded trips to Disneyland, to going door-to-door taking people’s ballots away from them. This isn’t how we conduct fair elections; Rob McKenna’s campaign should cease this practice immediately.”
The full text of the letter is below:
November 2, 2012
By Email and U.S. Mail
Hon. Sam Reed
Secretary of State
416 Sid Snyder Ave. S.W.
Dear Secretary Reed:
I represent the Washington State Democratic Party. It has come to our attention that the King County Republican Party is informing voters that they can and should drop off voted ballots not at county election offices or U.S. mailboxes, but instead a temporary pick up locations staffed by Republican party operatives. Worse, these actions are being taken in direct contravention of guidance from the King County Elections Department. http://www.kingcounty.gov/elections.aspx.
This initiative is as ill-considered as it is unprecedented. 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. It is especially concerning in light of press reports from around the country about deliberate efforts by Republican Party officials to disenfranchise Democratic voters by collecting and then destroying their voter registration applications. See, e.g., http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57535950/man-charged-after-tossing-voter-registration-forms-in-virginia/.
Worse, state law makes it a felony for a person to either directly or indirectly offer “anything of value” to a voter in exchange for a vote. RCW 29A.84.620. The collection and delivery of ballots at the expense of the Republican Party seems a plain and clear violation of that statute.
As Washington’s chief elections officer, I ask that you defend our tradition of nonpartisan election administration and call upon the King County Republican Party to immediately cease and desist from this, frankly, badly misguided effort and consider appropriate legal action if that becomes necessary.
Very truly yours,
Kevin J. Hamilton
cc: Katie Blinn, Co-Director of Elections