Kimsey Sure Knows "Electioneering" Laws
Tomorrow is voting day for many Washingtonians, the culmination of a long, arduous process that started more than 18 months ago for some candidates and their supporters. Many citizens we've met along the way miss the days of showing up at the local school or community center to vote. They miss the line and the sun on their face. They miss that feeling of civic duty and gratitude for those who've made our democracy possible. They miss the little gray-headed lady who checks you in and asks how you've been that year.
Many have told me they miss Voting Day. I think I miss it too. But I'm not sure, because it's been so long since we had it here in Washington, that I wasn't old enough to vote yet. Maybe I miss the idea of it. Maybe I miss my parents' stories of it. But I know I hope that one day, we might have it again.
So tomorrow, my family and I will drive down to the local elections office and hand in our ballots. It's the closest thing to Voting Day we get here in Washington. But instead of the long line, or excitement of seeing your neighbors, or anticipation of getting your "I VOTED" sticker- I'm afraid my trip to the Clark County's Auditors Office, the only place I'm actually allowed to vote in person, may not be the Norman Rockwell scene I remember.
Yesterday, I received an email from our County Auditor Greg Kimsey. Here's what it said:
It is my understanding you are planning on holding a campaign event at the elections office on the day of the Primary, August 2. The purpose of this email is to ensure that you are aware that state law (RCW 29A.84.510, a copy of which is below) prohibits electioneering within 100 feet of the entrance to a voting center. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this, please contact me.
Acts prohibited near voting centers, student engagement hubs, and ballot drop boxes.
(1) During the voting period that begins eighteen days before and ends the day of a special election, general election, or primary, no person may:
(a) Within a voting center or student engagement hub or in any public street or room in any public manner within 100 feet measured radially from the entrance to a voting center or student engagement hub or 25 feet measured radially from a ballot drop box as described in RCW 29A.40.170:
(i) Suggest or persuade or attempt to suggest or persuade any voter to vote for or against any candidate or ballot measure;
(ii) Circulate cards or handbills of any kind;
(iii) Solicit signatures to any kind of petition; or
(iv) Engage in any practice which interferes with the freedom of voters to exercise their franchise or disrupts the administration of the voting center;
(b) Engage in any activities restricted under (a) of this subsection through electronic amplification located more than 100 feet from an entrance to a voting center or student engagement hub or 25 feet from an entrance to a ballot drop box if the person is capable of being understood within 100 feet of the voting center or student engagement hub or 25 feet of the ballot drop box;
(c) Obstruct the doors or entries to a building in which a voting center or ballot drop location is located or prevent free access to and from any voting center or ballot drop location.
(2) The auditor shall post a sign at the point or points specified at each voting center as required by RCW 29A.40.160 during the voting period providing notice of the prohibition in subsection (1)(a) of this section.
(3) Any sheriff, deputy sheriff, or municipal law enforcement officer shall stop the prohibited activity, and may arrest any person engaging in the prohibited activity.
(4) Any violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor, punishable to the same extent as a gross misdemeanor that is punishable under RCW 9A.20.021, and the person convicted may be ordered to pay the costs of prosecution.
(5) Nothing in this section may be construed to limit or otherwise restrict the access of an authorized political party observer to a voting center, student engagement hub, or ballot drop box for the purpose of observing the election process.
Our "Event" is called Come Vote With Brett. It invites supporters to come and vote in person.
It doesn't ask them to commit crimes punishable under RCW9A.20.021.
It doesn't ask them to obstruct doors or entries to buildings. Nor does it recommend that they engage in any practice which interferes with the freedom of voters to exercise their franchise or disrupt the administration of the voting center.
It doesn't ask them to suggest or persuade or attempt to suggest or persuade any voter to vote for or against any candidate or ballot measure, or circulate cards or handbills, or solicit signatures to any kind of petition.
In fact, it suggests nothing more than an invitation to turn your ballot in by hand. To another human being. Like we always did on Voting Day.
Thanks for the friendly reminder of what's important, Mr. Kimsey.
Hope to see everybody tomorrow morning. It's Voting Day in Washington!