The Washington Office of the Secretary of State has asked the USPS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Department of Homeland Security to investigate potential illegal activity after Alicia Rule, Democratic candidate for 42nd Legislative District and current Blaine city councilmember, posted a Facebook photo of a ballot wrapped in her campaign mailer.
Rule’s Facebook post was captioned: “Ballots arrived today! Mine was carefully tucked together with a flyer by our neighborhood postal worker. I am reminded of just how much support we have because even that postal worker’s union has endorsed our campaign. We are in this together for all of us.”
The state office of the Secretary of State began investigating after seeing other lawmakers share the July 17 Facebook post, according to Kylee Zabel, the office’s communications director Some lawmakers suggested that Rule had something to do with ballots being wrapped in her mailers.
Rep. Luanne Van Werven, a Republican from Lynden and the incumbent for the 42nd Legislative District, first shared screenshots of Rule’s post from J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm) on her official Facebook on July 19. Wilcox said he was calling for an immediate investigation.
In a July 20 follow-up Facebook post addressing calls for investigation, Rule said some ballots arrived with campaign material around them but that was common for mail carriers to do when fitting mail in a mailbox. Rule also clarified that she is endorsed by the Retired Public Employees union and the Washington State Labor Council.
On July 21, Van Werven posted an update about the incident saying, “At the very minimum, one should never brag about this kind of act. It undermines the integrity of our elections. This is serious and my opponent is not taking it seriously.”
Rule said she believes these allegations are divisive politics that extend to a bigger picture of the Trump administration working to discredit vote-by-mail, which she says is an important part of democracy.
“I think integrity matters and leadership and that’s what I’m trying to bring the table, to the best of my ability,” Rule said.
A spokesperson for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), an agency that regulates candidates, campaigns and lobbyists, said the agency received a complaint that alleged the mailer was a violation of a campaign finance law. The PDC declined to open an enforcement case since the matter involves the possible use of federal resources, rather than state or local resources, the spokesperson said.