The effort to recall Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant lost significant ground in Wednesday’s ballot count, with 50.3% of voters agreeing to remove her from office, compared to 53% of the votes counted on Tuesday.
With Wednesday’s count, Sawant has narrowed the difference to only 246 votes, out of the 39,274 counted so far. She received 62% of the votes counted on Wednesday.
King County Elections Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson said Wednesday the county estimates there are about 1,200 ballots left to be counted on Thursday and an additional 656 ballots with signature challenges that could be resolved and added to the count as late as Dec. 16, putting the overall turnout at just over 53%.
Sawant, first elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2015 and 2019, represents District 3 — including Capitol Hill, the Central District, First Hill, Madison Park, Chinatown International District, Madrona and Mount Baker. Her current term is set to end in 2023.
Now, Sawant is fighting to finish that term in the first recall of a Seattle council member to land on a ballot.
She faces three charges, brought by a group of constituents and approved unanimously by the state Supreme Court, which does not determine the accuracy of charges in recalls.
Sawant is accused of expending city resources to support a proposed Tax Amazon ballot initiative and acting out of compliance with public disclosure requirements related to those expenses. In May, she settled with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission for $3,516, twice the amount she spent in the violation.
Sawant is also accused of defying COVID-19 safety orders by unlocking City Hall to hundreds of protesters during one night of Seattle’s racial justice protests in June 2020. Sawant confirms that she opened City Hall but says it did not violate any laws.
In addition, Sawant is accused of leading a march to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s house, though Durkan’s address is protected by a state confidentiality program because of her past work as a federal prosecutor. Sawant admits and was recorded participating in the march, but says she was not involved in organizing the event.
Sawant was not immediately available for comment Wednesday, but her supporters said they consider her activism good leadership.
Logan Swan, a Beacon Hill resident and ironworker, said Tuesday that he has supported Sawant since her first campaign because she is doing what he expects from a leader, including participating in the activism that got her on a recall ballot.
“If you say you represent me, you should be going after employers who are committing wage theft. You should be leading movements. You should be helping us get organized,” Swan said outside of the Sawant Solidarity Campaign party at Chop Suey on Capitol Hill. “And I don’t see anyone else in the city doing that.”
Recall Sawant campaign manager and chair Henry Bridger II, who also wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, said Tuesday night he was not worried about the ballot-counting results skewing toward Sawant as the count goes on because he believed the initial results are the sentiment of the district.
Sawant — who in 2019 gained support in the days after the election, ultimately overtaking her challenger who had a nearly identical lead on election night — predicted her upswing in support on Tuesday.
However, if Sawant is recalled, the remaining eight City Council members will have 20 days to appoint her replacement from Dec. 17, when election results will be certified. A special election would be held in November 2022 to fill the seat until the end of the term in November 2023. Sawant would be eligible to run in the special election or any future elections.