A petition was formally filed to the King County Elections Office on Tuesday, listing allegations against sitting City Council Member Kshama Sawant and requesting that voters are given the opportunity to vote on her recall in February.
The petition was filed by Ernie Lou, a resident of Capitol Hill in Seattle and self-described moderate Democrat and “bleeding heart liberal.”
“This is the grassroots citizens of District 3 of Seattle that says we don’t support what you’re doing, Councilwoman Sawant,” said Lou. “They were elected and voted in, but I really feel like the current makeup of the City Council does not represent the true values of the city of Seattle.”
Lou was inspired to file the petition after the City Council met earlier this month and voted to slash the budget of the Seattle Police Department. Councilwoman Sawant – a self-described Socialist – has been a prominent voice in the effort to defund the police department in Seattle, advocating for a 50% cut to their budget.
“The law is clear that you cannot recall someone for making a decision that you just politically disagree with,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told Komo News.
According to the Washington State Constitution, an elected official may be recalled if the official “has committed an act or acts of malfeasance, or an act or acts of misfeasance while in office, or has violated the oath of office.”
Lou’s petition, however, lists many allegations that go beyond a simple political disagreement.
Lou’s main contention in his petition revolves around Sawant’s involvement in a protest in June in which she unlocked the doors to City Hall after hours to allow protesters inside. The petition states that this endangered the lives of City employees (since protests in Seattle have regularly turned violent since May), and that this action was a misuse of city resources and her official authority, violating city and state laws.
Other allegations against Sawant include an incident in which she revealed the address of Mayor Durkan’s residence, where protesters then marched to protest; a claim that she has ceded certain decision-making authority in the city to Socialist Alternative; and the creation of a criminal environment in the East Precinct that resulted in the establishment of CHAZ/CHOP in June.
Now that the petition has been correctly filed, it will be forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to be reviewed by King County Attorney Dan Satterberg, then to a judge to decide on whether the allegations are adequate enough for a recall vote.
A judge is expected to make a ruling next month. If it goes in Lou’s favor, Lou will then have 180 days to gather around 10,800 signatures for the petition to be added to the ballot for the voters.
The earliest opportunity for voters to take action on such a ballot initiative would be February of 2021.