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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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End in sight for lengthy recall vote

For some voters, Tuesday’s mayoral recall may seem like the longest election in memory.

And in a sense, it is. All voters were mailed ballots in mid-November, and some marked the single item in the special election and mailed them back immediately.

About half of all voters had returned ballots by Friday, and thousands more will likely be posted between now and 8 p.m. Tuesday. Others will take their ballots to one of three drop-off sites around Spokane between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday, coming close to imitating the poll-site voting that could soon be a thing of the past in Spokane County.

But for some voters, the election may seem to have started May 5, when The Spokesman-Review first reported allegations that one of their best-known and longest-serving politicians, Mayor Jim West, had offered a City Hall internship to someone he’d met over the Internet and had sexually explicit chats with. West thought “Moto-Brock,” the person at the other end of the Internet, was a Spokane high school senior.

Moto-Brock was actually a forensic computer specialist hired by The Spokesman-Review to help verify the story of another young man who told the newspaper he’d met someone he thought was West on the Internet and had a sexual relationship with him.

For other voters, the election may have started in June, when a Superior Court judge ruled there was enough evidence in a proposed recall petition to let its sponsor begin gathering signatures, or in August when the state Supreme Court turned down West’s appeal of that decision.

For others, the election began in September when recall author Shannon Sullivan and a group of volunteers started gathering signatures, or in October when county elections officials ruled there were enough signatures to qualify for a special ballot.

Tuesday marks Spokane voters’ last chance to have a say on whether West should keep his office or be forced out of it. Although the campaign for both sides has been low-budget and low-key, the coverage in the newspaper and other local news media has been extensive, and a poll conducted in late October for The Spokesman-Review and KREM 2 News showed 97 percent of voters have read or seen something about West’s conduct.

If a simple majority of voters mark their ballots in favor of the recall, West would be out of office on Dec. 16, the day the results are scheduled to be certified. City Council President Dennis Hession would become the temporary mayor, and the City Council would pick a replacement to fill the remaining two years of West’s term.

If a simple majority votes against the recall, West would remain in office and continue serving much as he is now. Because of term limits, one of his most vocal council critics, Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers, will leave office at the end of December.

However, a council majority who voted for West’s resignation would remain. The council would still have to decide what, if anything, to do with the conclusion of its investigator that West violated state law and city policies; an investigation by the FBI would continue.

Regardless of the outcome, West said he plans to sue The Spokesman-Review. The newspaper has said it is confident its stories are accurate and did not invade the privacy of West, who is a public official.

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