#4ThePeople: Ensuring voter safety this election season

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington Primary Election is two weeks away, and voter safety is important this time of year.

There are signs near ballot boxes in Western Washington that read “under surveillance.” Not knowing who is posting these signs, these signs are raising concerns about voter safety in an already contentious election season.

There was a time when people had to sign petitions near drop boxes to ensure voter safety. Now, it is no longer allowed.

“We had petitions… people are signing petitions,” Spokane County Election Manager Mike McLaughlin said. “That’s why they changed the law, so there is no petition gathering around ballot boxes or handing out information.”

Whether you return your ballot by mailing it or taking it to a drop-off box, McLaughlin said you don’t have to respond to anyone who asks about your vote.

“But if there are people at the box intimidating you or even trying to ask you how you voted, you do not have to respond to them,” McLaughlin said. “It is illegal for anyone to ask that question or harass or intimidate anyone within 25 feet of the drop box.”

Cara Seely was dropping off her ballot earlier today. She hasn’t seen anyone trying to persuade her at the drop-off box.

“I’ve never ever been someone outside the box,” Seely said. “I’m in my late 40s, so I’ve been voting a long time. There’s never somebody outside there.”

There are 24 ballot boxes across the county that you can go to and cast your vote.

The drop-off boxes at the South Hill Library and the Indian Trail Library are unavailable due to the construction project.

McLaughlin ensures that the boxes are secure. So there is no need for anyone from either political party to stake out the ballot box.

“We are all at public libraries,” McLaughlin said. “They have different hours, so there are different areas that people are watching so we know that they are pretty secured at those locations.”

The election manager said you can call their office at 509-477-2320 if you see someone harassing or intimidating anyone near the drop-off box.

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READ: GOP groups organize Washington ballot box surveillance efforts