Republican state legislators are demanding an investigation into allegations of vote rigging.

Republican state legislators are demanding an investigation into allegations of vote rigging.

Nearly five dozen Republican state lawmakers have asked Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both of whom are Democrats, to investigate alleged incidents of intimidation stemming from signature-gathering efforts to oppose a new law that allows licensed shelters to harbor youth in certain instances without parental notification. The Washington state legislature recently passed a law that allows licensed shelters to house youth without notifying their parents.

 

“We write with great concern about a threat to the integrity of the democratic process here in Washington – specifically, activities to hinder Washington citizens attempting to sign referenda petitions,” the Republican lawmakers said in a letter to Hobbs and Ferguson dated July 27, expressing their alarm about the situation.

 

 

Sen. John Braun, the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, and Rep. Drew Stokesbary, the most senior Republican in the House of Representatives and the leader of the party’s majority,

together with 54 other Republican legislators from around the state, signed the letter.

 

They drew reference to a letter written by Brandi Kruse on July 18 and sent to Hobbs. In the letter, Kruse said that leaders of local Democratic Party offices “have engaged in and encouraged harassment of signature gatherers.” The legislators characterized Kruse as “a well-known and highly respected political reporter.”

 

Kruse mentioned numerous cases of intimidation and harassment of volunteers collecting signatures for a referendum proposal opposing Engrossed Senate Substitute Bill ESSB 5599, adopted by a Democratic parliamentary majority in April. The referendum measure was opposed to Engrossed Senate Substitute Bill ESSB 5599. When a juvenile seeks refuge to pursue gender-affirming or reproductive health treatment, the law enables overnight shelters or groups serving homeless or runaway adolescents to alert state authorities rather than the child’s parents. This notification is required under the bill.

 

On May 9, Governor Jay Inslee signed the plan, which formalized the process and set a date for when it would go into effect, which was July 23. According to statements made by legislators who favor the legislation, their objective is to “remove barriers to temporary, licensed shelter accommodations for youth who are seeking certain protected health care services.”

 

Opponents of the bill believe that it undermines the authority of parents while also causing division and representing an excessive level of government intrusion. A grass-roots effort to gather signatures to have a referendum on the ballot in the state of Washington in November to ask voters whether the act should be repealed got its start in June. The referendum would ask voters to decide whether or not the legislation should be repealed.

 

The outcome of the endeavor was a failure in the end. According to reports, proponents of Referendum 101 could not collect the necessary 162,258 valid signatures by the deadline of July 22, falling short of the need by around 5,000 signatures.

 

According to Derrick Nunnally, the organization’s deputy director of external relations, the referendum petition was never sent to the Secretary of State’s Office for evaluation.

 

During the three signature-gathering sessions that took place this summer in Pierce and Thurston counties, Kruse, a supporter of the referendum, sent a letter to Hobbs in which she claimed that opponents of the referendum engaged in intimidating or harassing conduct, including the use of derogatory names and the taking of photographs of volunteers. According to her, the local Democratic parties in both counties actively pushed demonstrators to get together.

 

It was unclear if local law enforcement had been informed of the occurrences or requested to react to them.

 

Kruse told Hobbs, “For any reasonable person, the actions described… constitute harassment and intimidation.” “It is my contention that the activities which are advocated for and supported by the Democratic Party are, in some instances, in violation of (state law).”

 

She referred to Washington Revised Code section 29A.84.250(4), which states that it is a class A misdemeanor for anybody to try to interfere with a voter’s ability to sign, or not sign, a petition for an initiative or referendum or to vote on such initiatives. This provision makes it a severe offense for anyone to do so.

 

According to Kruse, the Office of the Secretary of State has, in the past, “rightfully spoken out against acts designed to intimidate and dissuade voters.” She said that Hobbs had personally spoken out against the placards that a Republican activist in 2022 had put near vote drop boxes, claiming that authorities were monitoring them.

 

Kruse pleaded with the audience, “I now ask you to consider whether the actions directed at R-101 are deserving of similar condemnation,” as he said before.

 

Her worries were shared by the Republican state lawmakers, who requested that the offices of the Secretary of State and Attorney General examine “those who are reportedly involved in organizing and carrying out the incidents described by Ms. Kruse.” The GOP state legislators repeated her concerns.

 

“in no way endorses or encourages any particular referenda,” the Republican legislators responded in response to the letter, which said they had sent it. Its primary objective is to facilitate a comprehensive and neutral examination of possible criminal action that interferes with the power of referendum held by the people.

 

In his response to the Republican lawmakers on August 3, Hobbs said that he shared their position that access “to all aspects of the democratic process must be kept free of interference.”

 

However, as Hobbs pointed out in his letter, his office’s duties in the administration of elections do not include the ability to investigate or enforce any alleged breaches of the RCW in issue. According to him, the legislature still needs to provide resources to the Secretary of State’s office to establish an investigative function.

 

Hobbs agreed that Kruse’s letter raised “deep concerns.” However, he stated that his office is still working to “increase public awareness that voters’ access to participate in democracy is specifically protected in state law….”

 

In addition, Hobbs said that he would “welcome your support for future legislation that advances this righteous cause” to the politicians who belong to the Republican party.

 

In a similar spirit, Ferguson responded on Tuesday by writing a letter saying that no one should use threats or intimidation to interfere with a citizen’s freedom to sign or not sign a petition for an initiative or referendum.

 

However, Ferguson said his organization cannot undertake criminal investigations, pursue criminal charges, or recruit police personnel. He also added that his organization does not investigate criminal complaints or hire police officers. According to him, law enforcement officials, municipal attorneys, and county prosecutors are the only people authorized to decide this topic.

 

 

In a letter Ferguson sent to members of the Senate Republican Caucus and the House Republican Caucus, he said, “I encourage you to refer your request for investigation to the appropriate law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction.”

 

 

An email request for a response was sent to the Washington State Democratic Party; however, they did not react immediately.

 

Concerning the requirements of ESSB 5599, prior state law required licensed shelters or programs that assist homeless or runaway adolescents to make contact with a parent or guardian within 72 hours, but ideally within 24 hours, unless there are “compelling reasons” not to do so. These “compelling reasons” include situations in which a parent or guardian cannot be reached. Instead of doing nothing in these circumstances, the shelter must report the situation to the state’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

 

Under the proposed rule, “compelling reasons” would include situations in which a juvenile seeks gender-affirming therapy or reproductive health care services without the authorization of their parents. Other situations that might fall under this category include abuse or neglect by the parent or legal guardian.

 

The Department of Children, Youth, and Families is responsible for offering to “resolve the conflict and accomplish a reunification of the family.” In addition, DCYF must offer to make recommendations on behalf of the child for appropriate behavioral treatment.

 

Suppose a teenager’s hosting organization is not affiliated with the Department of Children and Teenager Services (DCYF). In that case, that organization must get a signed and notarized permission sheet from the child’s parent or legal guardian, as well as a limited power of attorney, must be shown before the child is allowed to enroll in the program. Participants are required to have mandatory reporting training, the program must have insurance, and participants should also be instructed on how to protect anonymity.

 

 

 

 

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