‘Violation of my First Amendment rights,’ House candidate says of removal of election surveillance signs
Jul 21, 2022, 11:35 AM | Updated: Jul 22, 2022, 9:16 am
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story described Amber Krabach as being sympathetic to QAnon. Krabach has denied association with the conspiracy theory and political movement. As reported by Crosscut, Krabach has posted QAnon messages and images on social media, including the movement’s slogan: “where we go one, we go all.”
Amber Krabach, Republican legislative candidate, is defending the presence of signs littered across King County’s ballot drop boxes that claim “this ballot box is under surveillance.”
Krabach, a Republican state House candidate from Woodinville, has posted QAnon-related memes and tweets, sometimes under a hashtag that abbreviates the QAnon rallying cry, “Where We Go One, We Go All.” Krabach is running as a third party against incumbent state Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, in the 45th Legislative District, and Republican candidate John Gibbons.
After the signs started appearing next to ballot drop boxes across the Seattle area, many officials were quick to call the signs “voter intimidation,” but now the former King County GOP Elections Integrity Commission (EIC) chair Krabach says the signs were just an “effort to inform the public of the law and to provide accurate information about how to report concerns.”
On the signs were big red letters, reading “this ballot drop box is under surveillance,” and “accepting compensation for harvesting or depositing ballots may be a violation of Federal Law,” along with a QR code leading to the election incident report on the King County GOP website.
When brought to their attention, Michael Patrick Thomas, Chair of the King County Republican Party, said party officials were unaware of the signs. Thomas said they were created by the EIC and they “had acted outside of its authority and without the express knowledge, permission, or consent of the King County Republican Party.”
Krabach disputes the GOP chair though, asserting that the “honorable” EIC was never affiliated with the signage project, and the dissolution of the committee was unjustified.
The EIC has long been working toward increasing the election integrity in the county though, Krabach said, with fears of voter fraud at an all-time high across the country. A poll done by PolitiFact in June 2022 shows that 70% of Republicans believe there was some voter fraud in the 2020 election.
“King County Elections conducts some of the safest and most secure elections anywhere in our nation, and these intimidation tactics are a direct extension of the anti-democratic rhetoric behind The Big Lie,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “Voter intimidation is a state and federal crime, and I’ve directed Sheriff Cole-Tindall to investigate.”
‘Under surveillance’ ballot-box signs likely voter intimidation, officials say
This is not enough to ensure the election integrity, and the EIC was put in place to advocate for voter increasing security, says Krabach.
“King County has been asked numerous times to add security cameras to the 75+ drop boxes around our county because there is simply no way to effectively monitor them otherwise,” Krabach said. “They have outright refused to provide this service to the public. The surveillance sign project was a private, salutary effort to inform the public of the law and to provide accurate information about how to report concerns.”
To back up her claims that the signs were completely legal, Krabach points to the election observer program that is already run by the city. In the program, volunteers from both political parties are invited to observe the opening and recording of ballot information, but not the actual drop boxes in the city.
“It is not voter intimidation, or otherwise unlawful, to provide basic, factual information about federal election law,” Krabach said. “Any assertion to the contrary is inappropriate, and has the appearance of intending to keep voters, and the public at large, from being aware of this information”
While observing the drop boxes is not illegal, the Washington Secretary of State’s office points out that if people feel their access is impeded, or are not comfortable casting their ballot, then it might be considered voter intimidation.
“There are many ways curious or concerned voters can observe and engage in our electoral process. However, voter intimidation is not one of them,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said. “Washington law permits voters to drop off ballots for others. Signs intended to make voters feel like they are being watched and monitored and violating the law by depositing ballots is voter intimidation, period.”
While city officials have removed the signs, Krabach is not happy with how the situation has been handled.
“Instructing their employees to steal these signs is not only a violation of my First Amendment rights to free speech and free expression but also a flagrant theft of private property,” Krabach said. “With county and state officials now joining in to target citizen observers, while silencing their speech and trying to intimidate them out of their efforts to obtain assurance of election integrity, I’d like to know if this seemingly tyrannical pile-on is really something they believe will increase voter confidence in our election process.”
Elections officials called the placement of the signs serious offenses that would be fully investigated, so those who posted them would be held accountable.