OLYMPIA — Legislation signed into law by the governor this week makes misrepresentation of an unofficial ballot drop box a gross misdemeanor.

Senate Bill 5015, sponsored by Sen. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), would hold anyone who provides a voter with faulty election equipment or misleading or incorrect information guilty of a gross misdemeanor. The penalty for a gross misdemeanor is a maximum of 364 days in jail and a fine of $5,000.

“By enacting this legislation, we are preemptively preparing to ensure every vote is counted and valued,” said Hunt. “This bill grew out of a situation in California where a group tried installing their own drop boxes, which looked official.”

Washington state’s elections are conducted by mail. The county auditor sends each voter a ballot and set up drop boxes where voters can securely deposit their ballots. Voters can also mail in their ballots. Ballot drop boxes must be at each voting center opened by the auditor; in addition, one location must be established at which people can register to vote in person. There must also be one ballot drop box per 15,000 registered voters in each county, and there must be a drop box in each city, town and census-designated site in the county with a post office.

“Election integrity is fundamentally important to the fabric of our democracy. With this bill we protect that integrity and provide voters with confidence that their voice is heard,” said Hunt.