Chess game underway between Sawant supporters and recall activists | August 11-17, 2021

The strong base of supporters collecting signatures from lone socialist city council member Kshama Sawant is something of a permanent fixture in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area. Kailyn Nicholson repeatedly solicited Sawant’s office and his pet issues – the push for a $15 minimum wage in 2014 and Tax Amazon in 2020. When Sawant faced a recall, Nicholson took signatures from residents of the district three who have pledged to support Sawant – that is until the Kshama Solidarity campaign changes tack.

In recent weeks, loyal Sawant canvassers have been more eager than recall campaigners to force a vote on the November ballot.

Despite the Kshama Solidarity campaign’s original strategy to collect on behalf of the recall effort, the Recall Sawant campaign did not submit signatures by the August 3 deadline. The Kshama Solidarity campaign calls the postponement of the recall to a low turnout election an act of voter suppression.

“They don’t want a normal election in November because that’s when most people vote,” Sawant said Aug. 2 at the “Put Up or Shut Up” rally outside the offices of the government. recall attorney, John McKay. “They don’t want workers, people of color, youth or tenants to vote. They rightly feel that the only way to win is an election dominated by the wealthiest and whitest electorate possible.

She continued, “In short, if you’re an ordinary person, a worker, or a tenant in District Three, they’re scared of you.”

According to her website, Recall Sawant wants her out of office for three reasons: Sawant admitted to misusing her office’s resources to promote the Tax Amazon initiative; she illegally led a group of Black Lives Matter protesters to City Hall last June; and she marched with protesters to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s private residence the same month.

Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported that at a press conference in April, Recall Sawant campaign manager Henry Bridger II said he did not want the recall in the November ballot. According to Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, the campaign then denied this in July.

On July 9, fearing that the recall campaign would be postponed until a special election in February, Sawant announced that her own canvassers would be tasked with collecting signatures that could potentially fire her from her job, possibly becoming the only one elected to sign his own dismissal petition. For three weeks before the deadline for getting the recall on the ballot, Sawant canvassers took to the streets from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Although collecting signatures on behalf of the recall may seem like a team change for Sawant canvassers, Nicholson said every signature the Kshama Solidarity campaign collects is from someone who supports Sawant.

“The first thing we ask people is, ‘Will you stand with Kshama against the suppression of right-wing voters?’ said Nicholson. “We are not looking to collect signatures or do anything to mobilize people who are considering voting for the recall. We just want to talk and mobilize our supporters, who we will have to mobilize to vote against the recall.

As for community feedback, Nicholson says signatories called the strategy “creative,” “bold,” and “bulletproof.” In a press release, the recall campaign seemed less impressed, calling the Kshama Solidarity campaign’s signature-collecting effort a “case of manipulation”.

According to a Kshama Solidarity campaign spokesperson, Bryan Koulouris, their campaign contributed more than 3,100 signatures for the recall.

As of July 30, Recall Sawant reported collecting 11,576 signatures, which alone is more than the 10,739 required to be on the ballot. This threshold is 35% of the number of votes cast for all the candidates who ran for Sawant’s seat the last time she was elected there, in 2018. However, the 11,576 signatures, as well as the contribution from the Kshama Solidarity campaign, are not verified. During a verification process, not all signatures are accepted. For example, only 52% of this year’s Charter Amendment 29 signatures were accepted by King County elections. According to the Recall Sawant website, the recall campaign wants about 1,300 to 1,400 more signatures to ensure they have enough after the verification process. The signatures collected by Sawant’s camp would tip the recall campaign above the high end of their goal, but as Sawant said she expected, Recall Sawant gave up none of the signatures. in the King County election.

“The Recall campaign will not be intimidated by Sawant or his supporters,” Bridger of Recall Sawant said. “With his record of ethical and legal violations, Sawant’s interference in the signature collection effort is untrustworthy. … When and how we submit these signatures for verification will be based on our confidence in the number of valid petitions we collect – not the whims of Council Member Sawant.

Reminder Sawant plans to continue collecting signatures until the Oct. 19 deadline to appear on the February special ballot.

Historically, special elections have lower voter turnout than general elections. King County Elections reports an 87% voter turnout for the 2020 general election, compared to 33% for the special election the same year. For elections in odd years without major national races, the difference is less significant. For example, in 2017, which had similar election conditions to the mayoral race, the general election had a 43% turnout while the special that year had a 40% turnout.

From the August 2 rally, it’s been clear that the strategy, whether or not the recall campaign results in the signatures they’ve collected, is to mount a massive effort to get the vote out to keep Sawant in power. . Fans will remain hopeful no matter what Recall Sawant’s next moves are. According to Emily McArthur, campaign manager for Kshama Solidarity, it’s been a busy month: she said the campaign raised $50,000 to fight voter suppression in July. One volunteer, Elan Axelbank, said the campaign increased the turnout of volunteers eightfold to collect signatures to force a vote in November.

“People were pissed about the voter suppression they saw happening, but excited because in our tactic of collecting signatures for the recall, they had hope,” Axelbank said. “People are excited. The campaign has a new momentum, and we will continue it, no matter [Recall Sawant] deliver the signatures or not.

Hannah Krieg studied journalism at the University of Washington. She is particularly interested in covering politics, social issues and anything that gives her an excuse to speak with activists.

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