December election date likely made Sawant recall vote closer than it would have been

Dec 13, 2021, 9:05 AM | Updated: Dec 17, 2021, 11:19 am

Kshama Sawant recall, eviction moratorium...

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Perhaps it was an expansive “get out the vote” campaign, or that Seattle’s District 3 residents simply like voting. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that the turnout for a bid to recall City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been surprising to say the very least.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant extends lead over recall effort

Sawant’s camp consistently fought to get the recall on the November ballot, even going so far as to help collect signatures to force the campaign’s hand. The prevailing concern was that winter special elections rarely feature high turnout, and that asking District 3 voters to cast ballots in their third election in four months would scare away progressives who would be more politically engaged for a regularly scheduled election.

And with voters tasked in November with deciding on a new mayor, city attorney, and two at-large councilmembers, what could be more engaging than that?

What happened instead was staggering by any measure. When it’s all said and done, over 41,000 people will have cast their votes in this recall, with turnout sitting just above 53% for the district. By comparison, District 3’s turnout for the November general election was nearly on par at 55%, with a difference of just 1,200 more ballots.

It’s difficult to discern which direction a recall currently separated by roughly 250 votes would have moved if it had instead taken place last month. If you’re Kshama Sawant, the belief is that a November recall vote would have yielded a “far larger margin of victory” for her, she said in a statement delivered late last week, and that her win will have been in spite of the December special election date, not because of it.

As recall vote margin widens, Sawant confident she will keep Seattle council seat

Using November’s general election results a barometer, we can at least get some sense of how accurate Sawant may be in that claim.

Precinct data provided to MyNorthwest by King County Elections shows that Nikkita Oliver — whose politics and policies largely mirror Sawant’s — won District 3 by just over 3,600 votes, pulling in a total of 22,503 votes to Sara Nelson’s 18,839. Abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy prevailed in the district by a similar margin in the race for city attorney, besting Ann Davison by a 22,892 to 17,361 margin.

In 2019 — where turnout was up around 59% in District 3 — Sawant won reelection to her seat with 22,263 votes, by a margin of 1,775 votes over challenger Egan Orion. The district has also added an additional 2,500 registered voters between 2019 and 2021. As of Monday night, Sawant is beating the December recall by a considerably slimmer 20,590 to 20,281 margin.

So, what does that all that tell us? Most likely, it means that Sawant was correct in her assertion that the larger turnout afforded by a November recall would have helped her more than it hurt her, especially given how her district largely leaned toward similar candidates despite the more moderate shift citywide.

As it is, the eight-year councilmember will live to fight another day, putting a period on a recall vote set on an otherwise unassuming Tuesday in December.

MyNorthwest Blog

satellites, night sky...

Bill Kaczaraba

Opinion: With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world

American author Max Ehrmann wrote a poem in 1921. It was distributed in a Christmas card in 1933,

7 months ago

Gingerbread House...

MyNorthwest Staff

KIRO Newsradio wins Bonneville Gingerbread House competition

In a tradition unlike any other, the second annual Bonneville Seattle Gingerbread House competition was fierce between multiple departments.

7 months ago

recount election king...

Bill Kaczaraba

Kaczaraba: It took an election for me to figure out I don’t live in Edmonds

I was excited to get to vote on Edmonds mayor because I had been seeing signs all over the neighborhood. But it was not to be.

9 months ago

All-Star Game T-Mobile Park...

Bill Kaczaraba

Kaczaraba: MLB All-Star Game a picture perfect day for Seattle

What we witnessed this week was a spectacular Seattle. Homeless encampments were gone. Sidewalks were power-washed. There were even baskets with flowers hanging.

1 year ago

summer solstice...

Bill Kaczaraba

Kaczaraba: Summer solstice brings season of concerts, hikes

The summer solstice has come and gone, ushering in everyone's favorite season across the Pacific Northwest.

1 year ago

Seattle Sonics...

Bill Kaczaraba

Could Seattle Sonics 2.0 be on the horizon?

With the NBA Finals in full swing, league Commissioner Adam Silver is talking about a possible revival of the Seattle Sonics.

1 year ago

December election date likely made Sawant recall vote closer than it would have been