KING COUNTY, Wash. — Calling it "un-American" and "un-Washingtonian," Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday that placement of signs that read "under surveillance" next to King County ballot drop boxes is being done to intimidate people to stop them from voting.
"This is an outrage," he said. "An absolute affront to everything we hold dear, which is the right to vote."
On Tuesday, the King County Elections office called for the removal of the signs, after receiving reports of "suspicious and intimidating" signs.
The signs included a QR code with the line, "Please report suspicious activity here." A test showed the code brings up a website for the King County Republican Party "election incident report" page. The Elections office said the signs appear to be a targeted effort by "party-affiliated activists" to "intimidate and dissuade" people from using the drop boxes.
The King County Sheriff's Office said an investigation is underway.
King County Elections Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson said the signs are illegal under federal and state law, adding that wording that discourages voters from casting their ballots is considered an intimidation tactic.
"You shouldn't have to feel that way when you drop your ballots. These drop boxes are 100 percent secure," Hodson said.
The signs were posted near at least nine ballot box locations throughout King County, including Bothell City Hall, the Broadview Branch Seattle Public Library, Mercer Island, Ballard, Kirkland, Federal Way, and Woodinville.
In a prepared statement, Michael Patrick Thomas, chair of the King County Republican Party, requested his party's members remove and discontinue the placement of the signs.
Inslee said the placement of the signs is keeping pace with "Republican national efforts to suppress" people. People, he said, who some Republican don't agree with.
Inslee said his office will follow the results of the investigation. He added there could be a need for "additional legislation" in order to protect people's right to vote.
"So, yes, we will be taking whatever action is necessary to stop this behavior," Inslee said.