It’s election time again.
You think we are kidding. We are not.
Results of this month’s election are not yet certified, but it’s already time for another one.
King County Elections sent out more than 76,000 ballots on Wednesday, to voters in Seattle City Council District 3, who must decide whether Councilmember Kshama Sawant should remain in office or be recalled.
Only voters in District 3 — made up of Capitol Hill, the Central District, First Hill, Madison Park, Little Saigon International District, Madrona, Mount Baker, North Beacon Hill and South Lake Union — can vote in the recall.
The effort to recall Sawant has been ongoing for well over a year. The socialist council member, who inspires both more devotion and more antipathy than any other Seattle politician, faces three charges of “misfeasance, malfeasance and violation of the oath of office.”
The charges stem from three separate incidents: First, Sawant is charged with using city resources to support a proposed Tax Amazon ballot initiative without complying with public disclosure requirements. She is charged with disregarding state COVID-19 orders by opening a locked City Hall to hundreds of protesters during the peak of Seattle’s racial justice protests in June 2020. And she is charged with leading a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s house. Durkan’s address is protected by a state confidentiality program because of her past work as a federal prosecutor.
The state Supreme Court, earlier this year, ruled unanimously that the recall effort could go to the voters. The court’s role is not to judge whether the charges are true or not. The court assumes the charges are true and rules on whether they are specific and serious enough to warrant potential removal from office.
Recall petitioners then had to collect more than 10,000 signatures from District 3 voters to send the recall to the ballot.
It is now up to voters to weigh the accuracy and importance of the charges.
If Sawant is recalled, the City Council will choose an interim replacement to serve through the 2022 election.
Sawant says the charges are dishonest and that she is being attacked for participating in peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. Sawant participated in the march to Durkan’s house, but says she didn’t lead it. She said she brought the protesters to City Hall because it was essential that the uprising evident in the streets be seen in the halls of power in Seattle.
“It’s no crime to stand with Black Lives Matter as Kshama did at the peaceful City Hall rally,” Sawant writes in her official statement on the recall ballot. “Big business and the right wing want to remove Kshama because she’s such an effective fighter for working people.”
As to the Tax Amazon charge, Sawant agreed to a settlement earlier this year with the city’s Ethics and Elections Commission, admitting that she improperly used at least $1,759 in city money and other resources to support the proposed ballot measure.
She agreed to pay a penalty of double the amount she used. She called the violations minor and said she did not believe city officials were prohibited from supporting ballot measures not yet filed.
Supporters of the recall attempt have raised more than $785,000; Sawant has raised more than $840,000 to fight the recall attempt.
Ballots must be postmarked or returned to a drop box by 8 p.m. on Dec. 7.
Last year, the Supreme Court swatted down an attempt to recall Durkan from office, ruling that charges blaming her for the Seattle Police Department’s broad use of tear gas at racial justice protests were insufficient.
At least two previous Seattle mayors have been recalled. Mayor Hiram Gill was recalled by voters in 1911. “Seattle at 150,” a book produced by the city clerk and HistoryLink, called Gill “notably corrupt” and said the recall was focused on his firing of the police chief and the rise of gambling and prostitution. Mayor Frank Edwards was recalled in 1931 for firing the popular head of Seattle City Light.
Voters tried to recall Mayor Wes Uhlman three times, in 1970, 1974 and 1975, but the issue only reached the ballot in 1975. The recall attempts were related to his lowering of the flag to half-staff to honor students killed at Kent State, his appointment of a new City Light superintendent and his firing of the fire chief.
The city clerk’s office found no other attempts at recalling a Seattle City Council member that ever made it to voters.