Both the Recall Sawant and Kshama Solidarity campaigns have accused each other of voter suppression. They're also both trying to collect enough signatures to give District 3 voters the option of recalling Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant on the November ballot. But despite this united effort, earlier this week the Recall Sawant campaign filed a complaint against the Kshama Solidarity campaign.
Recall Sawant campaign manager Henry Bridger II, who didn't respond to my inquiries, told the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog that the Recall had "already received tainted petitions from Sawant supporters with fictitious names and fraudulent signatures." He said these were "illegal attempts by Councilmember Sawant to disenfranchise Seattle voters amounts to voter suppression."
Kendall Hodson, a spokesperson for King County Elections told me in an email that "if a signature is fictitious or fraudulent, we simply wouldn’t verify it and it wouldn’t be counted."
It's commonplace for the elections team to come across fake names, Hodson said. She attributed that phenomenon to people possibly trying to "avoid having a say" or attempting to get out of long conversations with canvassers.
Bryan Kolouris, a spokesperson for Kshama Solidarity, said that the campaign's professional research team and an independent third-party consulting group would inspect the signatures before the campaign hands them over to the recall to submit to King County Elections.
The Solidarity Campaign, @Kshama_SC, against the right-wing, big-business-backed Recall is well on pace to get the remaining signatures (will be independently pre-verified) needed for a November ballot.@RecallSawantNow, meet me @ @KCElections on Aug 2 to submit?#PutUpOrShutUp
— Kshama Sawant (@KshamaSocialist) July 16, 2021
The Recall Sawant campaign's lawyer, John McKay, sent a letter about the complaints to King County Elections Director Julie Wise and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg this week.
"We congratulate Councilmember Sawant for joining the effort to secure her own recall from office," the letter began. "We seek confirmation from you or the Prosecuting Attorney concerning the process for submitting such petitions."
McKay goes on to say that "we are concerned that third parties who collect signatures are confusing the voters and may be planning to not to turn them over to the recall committee and disposing of them to commit voter suppression."
King County Elections issued a statement yesterday that said Kshama Solidarity could keep on gathering signatures.
As I reported last week, the solidarity campaign must gather signatures on a petition that uses the same language, font, type, page size, etc. as the official recall petition, and only the recall campaign can turn in the signatures—all of them at once.
Koulouris said the solidarity campaign had already cleared all of this with King County Elections prior to announcing the signature-gathering strategy. Nothing will change on their end of things.
"The big thing is [the recall] started saying what we’re doing is not allowed," Koulouris said. He believes this is because the recall doesn't want the signatures to count. "It appears like a desperate attempt to give themselves cover for roundabout voter suppression."
The recall campaign says it only needs to collect 1,700 more signatures to qualify for a ballot. If the recall campaign wants to make the November ballot, as they say they do, then they'll need to submit those signatures to King County Elections by August 3. However, they officially have until Oct. 19 to turn in all their signatures, so if they delay collecting and turning in the rest of the signatures until the fall, then the elections department will push the vote to a special election later in the winter.
The solidarity campaign believes that reserving the recall for a special election is a covert way to suppress the vote. Annual February special elections tend to average about 25% less turnout than general elections. Depending on when the recall turns in their signatures, King County Elections could host a special election in December, January, or February.
For now, the signature-gathering continues. Koulouris said that the team is making good progress and should be able to collect the remaining signatures by a self-imposed August 1 deadline. He also said District 3 donations to the campaign increased since Sawant announced this new strategy. Only District 3 residents can sign the recall petition and vote in the recall.
Since the beginning of this drama, pundits have looked to District 3-specific donations as tea leaves to predict the outcome of the recall since really only District 3's opinion matters. Currently, the recall has 4,540 contributors with 1,588 from District 3. The solidarity campaign has 5,792 contributors, and 1,668 come from within District 3.
"I think people are impressed by the tactical nuance of what we’re doing here," Koulouris said.
Over $1.1 million is at play in this recall election. Recall Sawant has raised over $517,000 and Kshama Solidarity has raised $576,000.