Kshama Sawant recall quietly misses chance to get on November ballot

Aug 6, 2021, 12:11 PM | Updated: Aug 9, 2021, 5:50 pm
Sawant recall signatures...
A "Sawant Solidarity" petitioner in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

The chance for a recall vote of Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant to make the November ballot has likely passed.

Sawant supporters say they’ve collected enough signatures for recall vote

The recall campaign technically has until mid-October before a 180-day window to gather 10,739 verified signatures from District 3 voters, constituting 25% of total votes cast in the last election of the district’s council seat in 2019.

The first round of ballots for the November general election is scheduled to be mailed out to overseas and service voters in just over a month. Given that fact, King County Elections officials say that while it’s “not past the point of possibility,” they are “past the point of being able to guarantee [the recall] being on the General ballot.”

“We estimate it’ll take us 2-4 weeks to validate signatures on the petition,” King County Elections told MyNorthwest. “Once we certify that there are enough valid signatures on a recall petition, we have between 45-90 days to hold the recall election.”

“Ballots for overseas and service voters go out 45 days in advance of Election Day (September 17 for this election),” they continued. “We would need some time to build the recall election into the ballot and voters’ pamphlet, as well as translate the recall language into Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese as we provide ballots and voting materials in those languages as well. And the printer needs time to get it all printed and out to USPS.”

The fight over signatures

The recall campaign revealed last month that it had gathered 9,000 signatures, setting a goal to gather between 13,000 and 14,000 under the assumption that some would be deemed invalid. In that update, it claimed to be targeting November’s general election.

Kshama Solidarity — the group leading the effort in support of Sawant — then announced that it had collected and turned over 2,047 signatures of its own over a 10-day period, in a bid to force the campaign’s hand and get the recall on the November ballot, under the assumption that the higher turnout would favor more progressive voters.

In late July, Kshama Solidarity estimated that the recall campaign had roughly 14,000 signatures in hand, including the ones the campaign itself had collected since its last update. But despite appearing to hit its original benchmark, recall manager Henry Bridger left the campaign’s new goal far more open-ended.

“The Recall campaign will do their due diligence on behalf all voters in District 3 to ensure we have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot,” he said at the time. “When and how we go through that process will be based on our confidence in the number of valid signatures we collect – not the whims of Councilmember Sawant.”

Bridger claimed that the campaign actually needs “a minimum of 48% more signatures collected than the actual number required to hopefully qualify for the ballot.” That appeared to be based off the fact that Compassion Seattle’s recently-proposed ballot initiative saw a 52% validation rate for signatures it submitted last month. For most campaigns, King County Elections advises petitioners to submit “about 20-30% more signatures than you need to qualify,” clarifying that Compassion Seattle’s validation percentage was “a bit low for what we normally see.”

Campaign accuses Sawant of ‘co-opting’ recall process

At this point, though, it’s unclear how many signatures the recall campaign currently now has in hand, or when it plans to submit them for verification. Kshama Solidarity issued a statement on Thursday positing its own theory.

“The Republican-backed Recall Campaign explicitly said from the start that they were pushing for a special election, which records show suppresses voter turnout by around 25%, or even as much as 40% or 50%,” the group said on Twitter. “Most people are accustomed to voting in November, which means disproportionately renters, people of color, and low-income voters are less likely to follow a special election.”

MyNorthwest has reached out the recall campaign for a comment but has yet to receive a response.

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Kshama Sawant recall quietly misses chance to get on November ballot