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Interest in Kshama Sawant recall election high, according to early ballot returns

When all is said and done, nearly $2 million will be raised in the single-issue election on Dec. 7.

SEATTLE — If Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant is recalled, it won't be without one of the most expensive votes in civic history, or without a street fight.

On Wednesday, numerous supporters were dotted across Capitol Hill in pop-up tents printing out ballots for the single-issue election on Dec. 7. It wasn't some sort of secret operation, as the tents all advertised the fact that they were there for the process, with Sawant supporters pulling up information to cross-reference registration status.

It is also all legal, according to King County Elections.

Kendall LeVan Hodson, chief of staff at the elections office, heard concerns from some voters in Sawant's District 3 about the process and said it is the equivalent of filling out a provisional ballot. King County has an "alternate format team," which will confirm the registration to the ballot.

LeVan Hodson also said there are no laws that prohibit ballot collection in Washington.

"So, technically, you are welcome to entrust your ballot to whomever you want to turn in," said LeVan Hodson. King County Elections recommends that ballots be turned in by a trusted friend or family member.

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A Kshama Solidarity staff member said it was not authorized to discuss the pop-up printing strategy, and referred KING 5 to a spokesperson who did not return a call.

Sawant has labeled the recall as a "racist, right wing campaign" while at the same time not doing much to dispute the three charges against her, as validated by the state Supreme Court.

The Recall campaign claims that Sawant violated her oath of office on three different occasions. She admitted to violating city ethics laws by using public funds to promote a ballot initiative. The recall also said she violated state COVID-19 policies when she unlocked City Hall for a protest after hours, and used her official position to lead a protest march to Mayor Jenny Durkan's home, which is protected under a state confidentiality program.

The donations have piled up on both sides, with Sawant raising nearly $1 million, a majority of it coming from outside city limits. By contrast, the Recall campaign raised closer to $750,000, with most donations of $1,000 or less, much of that from inside District 3. Another political action committee seeking Sawant's recall has raised close to $150,000, meaning by next week the race will top $2 million in donations.

LeVan Hodson said early returns are significant and running higher for the district than the November general election. Voter turnout is projected at 50%. However, it is tough to read the tea leaves, as the likely early voters are coming from precincts deemed to be more moderate, and/or voted against Sawant in the 2019 election. LeVan Hodson pointed out that District 3 voters tend to vote late, and that will likely be the case here, especially with Sawant supporters canvassing for ballots the way they are.

In an interview on Wednesday, Recall campaign Chair Henry Bridger said again that Sawant's attack line about the campaign's origin was false.

"We're progressive. I'm incredibly progressive as a gay man, marching for every right we've had," he said. "We live in one of the most progressive districts in the city, of one of the most progressive cities in the nation."

He was encouraged by the way the vote was going, as he was monitoring precinct level returns, and said he was looking forward to the Dec. 7 returns.

"Like that feeling as a kid when you're waiting for Christmas to come," he said.


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