If Councilmember Kshama Sawant and her adversaries were essentially neck and neck on the night of the election, the Thursday ballot drop indicated a photo finish for the 18-month long Recall Sawant saga.
As expected, Wednesday evening’s second batch of ballots skewed progressive. Sawant claimed a little more than 62% of the 7,000 vote drop, which tightened the initial 5% gap between recall and retain to just 0.62%, a margin of 246 votes. Thursday, King County Elections (KCE) counted nearly all the remaining votes, 1,355 to be specific, and the trend continued. In the latest drop, 68.48% voted to retain Sawant. That means 50.29% of D3 voters want to keep Sawant and 49.71% want to give her the boot.
So far, neither side has declared a victory. On election night, the Seattle Times reported that Recall Sawant campaign manager and chair Henry Bridger II was not worried about a Sawant comeback as the county added the last of the ballots. The Times wrote, “he believed the initial results are the sentiment of the district.” That sentiment has changed.
Sawant’s campaign continues on its hunt for a small but potentially pivotal pot of votes the campaign can win, or rather, prove they already won. As of this Thursday, KCE reported over 700 challenged ballots—591 of those ballots are “curable.”
The county chucks out late ballots, but if there is an issue with a ballot's signature, it's considered "curable," which means a voter can fix their signature so the county can count their vote. By the latest report, 372 ballots have messed up signatures, 203 ballots don't have signatures, and in 14 instances, the county needs to see an ID. Two ballots were missing a witness.
According to the KCE website, the department sends a letter to voters with a signature screw-up. This notice includes a signature challenge form and a postage-paid return envelope so the voter can correct the error. KCE also sends emails and calls if a voter provided the department with that contact information. KCE sends a second reminder call and email three days before the deadline, which in this case is 4:30 pm Dec. 16.
King County Elections Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson said that in an average election about 50% of curable ballots end up fixed and counted, but in hotly contested races like the recall, more voters tend to fix their ballots.
Hodson said about 100 voters have already sent back forms to square away signature mishaps. She didn't know if the county processed those 100 forms in time for Thursday's drop, but KCE will continue to add them as more voters return forms. Hodson said the staff will continue to uncover signature mistakes and issue notices for every ballot drop going forward.
The Kshama Solidarity campaign is also on the case. Before anyone cries electioneering, Hodson said that “ballot chasing” is perfectly legal and happens every election—“it’s a pretty normal part of the process,” she said. KCE sends a daily file of voters with outstanding signature issues to campaigns at their request. The department does not give campaigns voters’ contact information—that’s up to campaign staff to track down.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Kshama Solidarity campaign sent an “URGENT!” email to Sawant supporters, aiming to grab last-minute donations to fund their efforts to reach voters with challenged ballots.
“This next week, our historic Get-Out-The-Vote operation is going to finish out this campaign by following up with every last vote and making sure it counts, just as all along we have fought the voter suppression tactics that the right-wing Recall Campaign took directly from the Republican playbook,” the email read.
Greyson Van Arsdale from the campaign wrote that these challenged ballots “usually overwhelmingly come from working people.”
The county does not provide data about whether a challenged ballot comes from proletariat or bourgeois, but Hodson said that the rate of challenged signatures is usually a little bit higher among voters who get their ballot in a language other than English. Less importantly for this race in particular, the rate of challenged signatures is also generally higher in South King County.
The pot of curable ballots could give Sawant’s campaign an extra umph—53% of the curable challenged ballots in this special election came from voters under 35. In a race that could come down to hundreds of voters (fucking kill me), those 316 young voters with challenged ballots are worth following up with.
To find out if KCE counted your vote, Hodson said you can track your ballot here.