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- Washington state began allowing a vote-by-mail option for counties in 2005, which allows residents to send in their ballots or deposit them at drop boxes. Vote-by-mail was implemented statewide in 2011.
- State law requires election officials to prevent overflow at drop box sites, so authorized workers are typically sent to drop box sites before the polls close to collect ballots.
- Ballots can be left with the authorized workers or deposited in the box.
Several social media users claimed wrongdoing following Washington state’s primary election on Aug. 2, when a video began circulating of a woman in Clark County collecting absentee ballots in a bag near a drop box.
A copy of the video was shared on Facebook and shows a woman recording herself as she drives up to a drop box. The woman slows her vehicle when she reaches what appears to be an election worker wearing an orange safety vest and holding open a blue bag.
The driver asks the worker why she is not allowing people to put their ballots in the drop box with the worker responding that it takes "25 minutes to gather all the ballots that are in there and we have to close it right at 8 o’clock."
The worker goes on to say they’ve "always closed this box, we’ve always been here," and tells the woman she can place her ballot in the box instead, if she’d prefer.
Text across the Facebook video reads, "here we go again," an apparent reference to other claims of impropriety involving election drop boxes following the 2020 election.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The scene does not reveal election wrongdoing. Rather, it shows election officials making themselves available to legally collect as many ballots as possible from people waiting in a car line near poll closure time.
"Unfortunately, this video is just another case of standard election best practices that have been taking place well before 2020 now being called into question as a result of rampant misinformation about voting by mail," said Kylee Zabel, a spokesperson for the National Vote at Home Institute, nonpartisan, nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. Zabel used to serve as the communications director for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.
Clark County Election Supervisor Cathie Garber said officials began placing election administrators at drop boxes several years ago after previous elections led to long lines of people and traffic waiting to drop off their ballot, which caused long wait times and "safety and security issues" from crowded streets and sidewalks.
In 2005, Washington allowed counties to implement a vote-by-mail system that lets residents mail in their ballots or drop them off at a collection box. Counties can also establish voting centers for people who still wish to vote in person.
Vote-by-mail was eventually adopted statewide in 2011.
Garber said an interpretation of Washington's Administrative Code allows election administrators to help voters at the drop boxes, including collecting their ballots to ensure that drop boxes are emptied by the voting deadline. Official administrators are clearly identifiable by the badge and vest they wear, she said.
The code reads "any voter who is in line at 8:00 p.m. at a ballot deposit site must be allowed to deposit his or her ballot." It also says that county officials "must prevent overflow of each ballot drop box to allow a voter to deposit his or her ballot securely."
"We must be able to identify voters who are in line at 8 p.m., and voters who arrive after," Garber said. "By giving voters the option of depositing their ballot with an election administrator the line moves much more quickly, enabling election administrators to identify the vehicle that is last in line at 8 p.m."
Two election administrators are required to handle ballots at a drop box, and another person in the video, who was talking to the woman, was wearing a vest similar to the one the election worker wore.
Although not seen in the video, Garber said there were three election observers for the Republican Party at the drop box during the interaction who were monitoring the ballot collection.
"Whether voters deposit their ballot in a ballot drop box, or deliver it directly to an election administrator, all ballots are placed and secured in official ballot bags for delivery to the elections office," she said. "Certified election observers also have the ability to observe the delivery of official ballot bags to the elections office."
Claims questioning the legitimacy surrounding ballot drop boxes are not new. Drop boxes have been used for about 20 years across the country and grew in popularity in 2020 as elections officials grappled with how to safely conduct elections during a pandemic. Ballot drop boxes generally have more security features than typical stand-alone mailboxes.
Voters can leave their ballots in the drop boxes, which are directly collected by local election officials, rather than voting in person or sending ballots through the mail.
Despite federal and state officials proclaiming the 2020 election was safe and secure, many politically conservative states have restricted or banned drop boxes in the name of election security.
Amy Lin, a spokeswoman for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, said the collection procedures seen in the video are allowed by the state law requiring county officials to prevent overflow.
The law also says that ballots from drop boxes must be transported to a counting center in "secured transport containers," but doesn't specify the container type or how it’s secured.
"Counties may use different receptacles, be they bags or bins/containers, to transport ballots," Lin said.
A video shared on Facebook implies that a filmed interaction between an election worker in Washington state and a woman attempting to drop off their ballot is evidence of voter fraud.
Washington state implemented a statewide vote-by-mail system in 2011 after initially allowing it on a county-by-county basis in 2005, and a state law requires counties to prevent long lines from forming at drop boxes.
It has been standard practice for the state to have two election administrators go to a drop box to begin collecting ballots ahead of the voting deadline. Physically collecting the ballots lets administrators whittle down the lines and monitor which voters are able to make it in on time.
We rate this claim False.
Facebook post, August, 2022
Katie Daviscourt, Twitter post, Aug. 3, 2022
Archive of Aug. 3, 2022 Twitter post
Ari Hoffman, Twitter post, Aug. 3, 2022
Archive of Aug. 3, 2022 Twitter post
Washington Secretary of State, The history of voting and elections in Washington State, accessed Aug. 9, 2022
PolitiFact, "Ballot drop boxes have long been used without controversy. Then Trump got involved," Oct. 16, 2020
Email with Cathie Garber, Clark County elections supervisor, Aug. 9, 2022
Email with Amy Lin, spokesperson for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, Aug. 9, 2022
Email with Kylee Zabel, communications and research director for the National Vote at Home Institute, Aug. 9, 2022
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