(SATIRE) — I’m not telling you how to live, but I recommend finding an official ballot box.
See tumbleweird.org/election-guide/ for a list of official ballot boxes in Benton and Franklin Counties.
It is election season in Washington and the November 7th General Election is fast approaching.
We live in a time of wild election conspiracies — stolen elections, dead people voting, etc. — which have been investigated again and again, and found to be groundless. Now, conservatives have a new ‘solution’ to insure that they win across the state.
Before we dive into that, let’s talk about the system we have in Washington state.
History of mail-in voting
Washington state has had Vote-by-Mail for nearly two decades. According to the Secretary of State, in 1983, Vote-by-Mail was allowed for Special Elections. By 1991, any registered voter could apply to vote by absentee. Then in 2005, Vote-by-Mail became law, and could be used in any election. This was in response to the election reforms after the close gubernatorial race of 2004.
Now, with the current system, when people go and get their driver’s license, through the Motor Voter law, they can register to vote at the same time and begin to receive a ballot from their local auditor. Auditors send out postage paid ballots 18 days before the elections.
You can still vote in person if you like, too. That is conducted at your local auditor’s office. For people living with disabilities, you can also get assistance in person, or an election worker will come to you and assist you in filling out your ballot.
Dropping your ballot in the mail is free, or if you like to drop your ballot off at a secured ballot dropbox, you can do that anywhere in the state (see tumbleweird.org/election-guide/ for locations in Benton and Franklin Counties). No matter where your ballot originates from, any auditor will make sure your ballot makes it back to your own county.
Each ballot has a unique barcode for the envelope and inner ballot, too. Your signature is matched to verify you are the registered voter.
Just last year, Jenni H. wrote an incredible article detailing how secure the election system is in Washington state.
Ballot dropbox watchers
And yet, we still have pervasive conspiracies claiming that our elections are not secure. Two years ago, ballot dropbox watching was THE thing. You could sign up to take a shift to monitor dropboxes in your area. In King County, residents reported signs popping up by dropboxes threatening that boxes were under surveillance. In Benton County, there were reports of people monitoring their dropboxes, as well.
It is illegal to intimidate people attempting to vote. Local auditors advise you to contact the police if you feel unsafe.
And now, let’s harvest some ballots
One thing that might surprise you is that in Washington (and a few other states), it is legal to transport other people's ballots for them. This is called ballot harvesting. You are able to collect ballots for anyone and return them to ballot drop boxes or the auditor's office.
And this, according to the Washington State GOP, it is their solution to winning in Washington.
The WA-GOP sent out a fundraising email to supporters that reads:
For decades, Republicans have been asking to vote for in-person again in Washington State. Now you can. Republicans have also been worried about whether or not returning a ballot through the Post Office is trustworthy. Now you don’t have to worry about it.
Over the last month, the Washington State Republican Party has launched a program called “Secure Your Vote”.
This program includes several steps that encourage Republicans to vote, promote legal ballot harvesting, and help ensure that every vote is properly counted at the county elections office.
We are aligned with local businesses, churches, fish & wildlife shops and conservative leaning groups to organize conservative ballot box centers across the state. We are also establishing grassroots conservative teams who will help Iyou verify that your ballot was returned and counted by the county elections.
Building the statewide infrastructure for “Secure Your Vote” is going to take a lot of grassroots power and resources. The secure ballot boxes alone can cost up to $150 each — these aren’t just a show box with a whole cut in it. And they are accompanied with voter information & materials, ballot tracking, and trained grassroots volunteer teams.
Our first step is to train the grassroots conservative teams and to establish the secure ballot boxes. While we start training, can you help us put in place more secure ballot boxes?
With your support, we can hit our goal of 200 verified conservative ballot box centers before the 2024 statewide election. That’s $30,000 just for the secure ballot boxes alone, which we’ve already spent $4,000 of. [sic]
The head of the Washington state Grand Old Party is Jim Walsh. He is the leading conservative voice and a well-known Twitter (X) fighter, making him quite popular with the right wing party. According to an article in The Cascadia Advocate, Walsh feels that under his leadership, “Republicans can end this losing streak in 2024. We can win. We will win. We will improve the lives of people in this state.”
One local Benton County Republican, Ryan Jacobs, describes himself as a low-man on the totem pole of local politics. Jacobs founded several Facebook pages to give conservatives local information. He says he moderates them in a “Musk technique free-speech" style. He speculated the boxes are being purchased so folks have an easier time voting.
Jacob said by putting metal voting boxes at churches and other places conservative people go, they will have an easier time turning in their ballots. Jacob also said that he believes some of these ideas from the WA-GOP come from watching movies like 2,000 Mules, a conspiracy film about voter fraud that has been widely debunked. Republican party head Jim Walsh and others believe conservatives are not voting in the numbers that they used to.
Jacobs said, “[Conservatives] are totally not voting and I have a feeling that even on this cycle coming up for the general. See, we got crushed in the primary; I bet we're gonna get crushed in the general. Because only a third of people in the populace even vote anyways and then I think most conservatives think that our voting systems [are] corrupt. They're not even gonna vote.”
The conspiracies about voting irregularities are still widely believed by some Republicans in the state, and quite a few in the Benton GOP. One person Jacob knows regularly discusses voting irregularities he personally ‘investigated’ in Eastern Washington.
Jacobs said, “This dude literally talks to us about voter fraud. And he says that he's gone around Benton and Franklin County and then he's gone around other counties in the state knocking on doors and then saying, ‘Hey, it looks like Mr. And Mrs. Smith live here…. Is there anybody else that lives at your house now?’ And then he goes, ‘Well then why did 18 other people — and he has some kind of database list — use your address to vote in the last election?’ Which, I don't know where he's getting these lists or whatever, and whatnot, but who knows?”
Jacobs admitted that during the Presidential primary, when people declare their party on the outside of the ballot, having conservative ballot boxes could be an issue. He could see some conservatives 'accidentally ' forgetting to deliver Democrats ballots.
The Benton County Auditor, Republican Brenda Chilton, was contacted to give her professional opinion on the conservative drop boxes.
“In short, there is no law that prohibits ballot collection as described. We’ve added some guidance on our website setting forth recommendations for voters should they choose to allow someone to collect their ballot for delivery to the auditor: bentonauditor.com/Current-Election.
Voters have two easy and secure ways to return their completed ballot: by mail — no postage required — or by official ballot drop box. We have twelve drop boxes throughout the County. In addition, if a voter has concerns about using the mail or an official drop box, one of the options is to use the drop box located within the Contact Center at the Voting Center. While it is not illegal to collect other people’s ballots and turn them in for them, and a voter is free to surrender their signed ballot envelope to anyone else for turn-in, anyone who makes this choice should be careful to only hand their ballot over to someone they can absolutely trust to submit it on time. If a voter has questions or concerns, they can contact the Elections Division at (509) 736-3085.”
According to the Secretary of State website, there are almost 600 locations in the state that have ballot boxes and voting centers.
You can always mail or drop off your ballot. And don’t forget to track it!
Lifelong resident of Eastern Washington, Dori enjoys the outdoors, her family, and making good trouble. She has worked in broadcasting and reporting and believes in the value of the 4th estate. She is a true community advocate that loves Washington.