At a press conference on Friday, Councilmember Kshama Sawant signed a petition to recall herself from office. That's because the Recall Sawant and the Kshama Solidarity campaigns now share a common goal: they both want to gather enough signatures to get the recall on the November ballot.
Seems weird, right? Especially since the Kshama Solidarity campaign has raised over $569,000 to oppose the recall. But, as it turns out, the strategy actually makes sense.
Recall Sawant needs to gather 10,739 signatures to get on a ballot. They started that process on April 22, and they need to finish that process by October 19 to qualify for an election. If they hit that October deadline, the recall will go on a special election ballot in December, January, or February, depending on when the elections department gets around to verifying and certifying the signatures. But if the recall campaign turns in enough signatures by August 3, then the recall will go on this November's general election ballot. That’s because King County Elections must hold an election for the recall between 45 and 90 days after receiving and certifying the signatures.
Previously, Henry Bridger, the campaign manager and chair of Recall Sawant, told the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog that the recall campaign didn't want to make it on the November ballot. In the last 12 years, general elections in King County averaged a 25% higher turnout than February special elections. Higher turnout has traditionally been better for progressive candidates. And in this year's general, Seattle will be voting on the mayor, two city council positions, the city attorney, and the Compassion Seattle charter amendment, which will draw a higher turnout than a special election in the winter.
This week, Bridger announced in a fundraiser email that the recall campaign had already gathered around 9,000 signatures. He then said that the campaign was gunning to make it on the November ballot.
"There’s really no reason they shouldn’t make a November 2 general election ballot," said Emily McArthur, the campaign manager for Kshama Solidarity. "We’re concerned that they have no real intention of doing so."
According to Kendall Hodson, a spokesperson for King County Elections, no rule requires campaigns to turn in signatures once they're collected. The recall campaign just has to turn in its signatures by the 180-day signature-gathering deadline.
With three weeks to gather the remaining 1,700 required signatures, the recall campaign should be able to meet King County Elections' August 3 deadline for the November ballot, McArthur said.
"If they fail, it is a planned and deliberative failure," Sawant said at the press conference. "Unfortunately, we expect them to do exactly that. Put up their hands and say, 'We tried, gosh we couldn’t make it in time.'"
So, Kshama Solidarity plans to help the recall campaign get those signatures to make the recall vote happen in "the most Democratic way possible," McArthur said. She said that saving the recall for a special election with a historically low turnout and higher conservative turnout was undemocratic.
Hodson said signatures are signatures, and it doesn't matter who collects them. The Kshama Solidarity campaign is completely within their rights to collect recall signatures, but they must use petitions with the same language, page size, and format.
While Kshama Solidarity disagrees with a lot of the language on the recall petition, the petition does say that the "voter should have the right to choose." Kshama Solidarity canvassers will be leaning into that messaging when gathering the recall signatures, since a recall on the general election ballot will allow more people to vote in the recall.
One stipulation, Hodson said, is that the initiative petitioner must turn in all the signatures at once. That means that Kshama Solidarity will need to send their signatures over to the recall campaign by August 1 so that the they can send in the signatures by August 3.
Bryan Koulouris, a spokesperson for Kshama Solidarity, told me that he thinks the solidarity campaign can gather all 1,700 signatures by August 1.
"Our message to the recall is 'put up, or shut up,'" Sawant said before she signed the petition to recall herself from office. "You say you want to turn in your signatures and get on the ballot in November, then do it. The solidarity campaign will collect the rest. Let’s have a vote in November."