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King County certifies Sawant victory, notes high turnout and resolution of challenged ballots

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 17, 2021

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks to supporters Tuesday in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks to supporters Tuesday in Seattle. (Associated Press)
By Sarah Grace Taylor Seattle Times

Official results certified by King County Elections on Friday show Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant defeated an effort to recall her from office by 310 votes.

In the recall election held Dec. 7, about 41,500 residents of District 3 – about 53.5% of eligible voters – submitted ballots. They were split nearly down the middle, with votes against the recall securing 50.4% and votes in favor trailing with 49.6%.

Election results were unclear for several days of counting as Sawant came back from the recall’s initial lead and as hundreds of challenged ballots were resolved up until Thursday, nine days after the election. In all, 68% of the ballots with signature challenges were fixed by voters, in an unusually high response due to the close margins.

“Sixty-eight percent is, I think, the highest we’ve ever had in response to challenges. It’s usually between like 50-55%, and really good if it’s at 60%,” King County Elections ballot processing manager Jerelyn Hampton said in the certification meeting on Friday.

The recall effort against Sawant was the first attempt to recall a Seattle council member to ever make it to the ballot, fueled by accusations about Sawant’s involvement in racial justice protests and misuse of city funds.

Henry Bridger II, campaign manager of Recall Sawant, issued a statement Friday after results were certified, accepting defeat and claiming a version of success in how far the recall effort got.

“The Recall Sawant campaign set out 18 months ago to restore accountability in the District 3 City Council seat – and we succeeded in that. Our movement showed that Seattle citizens will hold elected officials accountable to the voters for irresponsible and illegal acts,” Bridger said.

He said the election will be remembered as a “turning point” for the city and citizens who look to move away from divisions and toward a more positive future.

Sawant said in a phone interview Friday that the results speak for themselves about the priorities of District 3, which she says align with her three terms on the council.

“We are firmly and unapologetically an office by and for working people,” Sawant said. “Furthermore, you can see that this is what wins victories.”

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