Councilmember Sawant addresses the crowd at a People Budget rally in 2019. (Photo by Seattle City Council, via Flickr)

Councilmember Kshama Sawant is ahead by 232 votes after Thursday’s ballot drop. With late votes trending strongly her way, that lead is likely to grow with remaining ballots. King County Elections said recalls are exempt from recounts, and the present margin would exceed the recount threshold anyway. It appears the recall effort has failed.

Turnout is sitting at 52.4%. King County Elections said virtually all returns from ballot boxes have been counted, which leaves only ballots still coming in from the post office (with a postmark by 8pm Tuesday) remaining to be counted and 591 ballots with signature challenges that potentially could be cured. Because a majority of challenged ballots are from younger voters, they will also likely break for Sawant. Track your ballot to make sure it has been counted, District 3 voters.

Ballot curing may add some votes, but the 232-vote lead appears durable, especially because the last-minute votes still trickling in via the post office are likely to favor Sawant based on the late trend in her favor that erased her initial eight-point deficit on election night.

1,378 additional votes were counted today, which was slightly more than the 1,200 King County Elections projected yesterday. The swing was even more leftward with 67.34% of votes supporting Sawant on the “no recall” side. Remaining drops will continue to get smaller in size.

No recount

King County Elections says that recounts aren’t required for local ballot measures, which the recall is, KUOW reported. “A recount is required when the votes for an office or statewide measure fall within a certain range. There is no required recount range for local ballot measures,” King County said per KUOW.

Sawant’s 0.58% lead would have avoided a machine recount anyway, but it was near the 0.5% threshold had this been a normal election.

In Washington State, mandatory recounts happen under the following conditions, excluding local ballot measures:

  • A machine recount is required when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 2,000 votes and also less than half of 1% of the total number of votes cast for both candidates.
  • A manual recount is required when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 150 votes and also less than a quarter of 1% of the total votes cast for both candidates.

Even so, recounts typically do not change an election result.

Sawant’s supporters have framed her success in the recall vote as an example of democracy in action.

Our campaign to make sure the voice of working people is heard in this election has infuriated the Seattle Times. Yesterday, the Times published a scandalous editorial in which they called for grassroots ballot printing stations to be outlawed by the state legislature, even describing such efforts as “coercion.”

The Times, which has consistently advocated for the interests of big businesses over working people at every opportunity, is openly calling for anti-democratic measures that would drag Washington to the right. In this election, only one campaign systematically fought for the participation of working people, youth, renters, and communities of color. Only one campaign engaged volunteers to help voters with language barriers cast their ballots. Only one campaign, day after day, printed ballots for people who misplaced theirs, or threw them away by accident. It was ours.

Greyson Van Arsdale, Kshama Solidarity Campaign 

Political Implications

Sawant holding onto to her seat keeps a progressive majority on City Council, albeit to varying degrees by councilmember. Generally, Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Tammy Morales, Andrew Lewis, Dan Strauss, and Lisa Herbold tend to compose that more progressive wing with Sawant, although the latter three do tend to moderate on some issues. Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez make up the moderate wing and rarely buck the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (see: Jumpstart Seattle vote), and incoming Councilmember Sara Nelson ran on a platform aligned with their positions.

Mayor-Elect Bruce Harrell will take office in January, as will Nelson, who is replacing Lorena González, and Republican Ann Davison, who is replacing City Attorney Pete Holmes. These moderate victories will change the dynamic at City Hall, but Councilmember Sawant surviving her recall certainly put the damper on narratives arguing the city’s politics had undergone a major shift to the right. This is still a city that elects bold progressives, even as it elects a Republican city attorney who voiced rhetoric on cracking down on the poor. District 3 is still a place that elects a Trotskyite socialist even if its neighbor to the north elects consummate moderate Alex Pedersen.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant confers with then-Councilmember Bruce Harrell. (Photo by Seattle City Council, via Flickr)

If her lead holds, for the next two years at least, Councilmember Sawant will remain a counterweight to the more moderate agenda that Harrell has laid out. And she will be looking over his shoulder and — if we’ve learned anything over eight years in office — speaking her mind.

The featured image credit is from the Seattle City Council, via Creative Commons.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated that recalls qualify for recounts and mistakenly listed the gap at .48%.

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.